David Nabarro tells business leaders lockdowns will likely be lifted by sector

Dr David Nabarro

Dr David Nabarro

Imperial academic David Nabarro told the world’s business leaders that the coronavirus lockdowns are likely to be lifted first by sector and region.

Currently there are lockdowns in more than 70 countries and territories around the world, affecting more than 2.5 billion people.

Dr Nabarro , the WHO’s coronavirus envoy and co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, was speaking on a World Economic Forum webinar for business and government leaders on the impact of COVID-19.

Speaking about releasing lockdowns and restarting economies, Dr Nabarro said: “It’s almost certainly going to be sector by sector, and geography by geography.

“Countries may need to subdivide in to areas with high transmission and probably keep those under lockdown for longer and restrict movement out of them as well as into them, whilst at the same time trying to get the rest of the economy going.”

Dr Nabarro added: “We do know is that these lockdowns have an impact on transmission by reducing opportunities for this virus to jump from person to person.

“But they are having huge, huge effects on the functioning of economies and societies, leading to a mix of destruction of SMEs, real impoverishment of people in the informal economy or on daily wages, and challenges for the functioning of sectors due to the interruption of supply chains.

“If you release a lockdown prematurely before you’ve built local capacity, how do you get the balance right between having strong defenses, in countries that haven’t got strong public health and testing capacity, while restarting the economy.”

Businesses need to work with governments

Dr Nabarro also said that he wanted the pandemic crisis to avoid becoming a trade-off between the economy and public health.

He said: “The economy can only survive if the public health part works, because otherwise it would really damage markets, supply chains and consumer confidence.

“It’s in the interests of business to be working with governments to ensure strong community level defenses and capacity of health services to ensure businesses can recover. It will be difficult and there will be variations.”

Further waves of outbreaks

He added: “There will be a new reality for all businesses and all people after these big outbreaks have been suppressed, inevitably there will be further waves of the disease coming back, and the last thing anyone wants is to re-impose massive lockdowns with all their catastrophic impact.

"So it’s making sure there is capacity within society to deal with rebound outbreaks.”

Dr Nabarro was speaking to hundreds of the world’s business executives, policymakers, NGO leaders and academic experts, on the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence Briefing: Business Resilience in the face of COVID-19.

You can follow Dr David Nabarro’s COVID-19 narratives here. Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or Imperial College London.

Stephen Johns
Communications and Public Affairs


  • Professor David N Nabarro
    Institute of Global Health Innovation

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