"The question is what countries did during this [lockdown] period: were they in a position to increase the capacity for detection, capacity for management of sick people and capacity to increase knowledge about preventive measures that need to be in place? If this scale-up has been made then they can confidentially ease the lockdown. But our advice is to do it step by step so that at least you test the system before opening it widely. This is the condition", Yao said.
According to the WHO official, one scenario that Africa feared was that of Italy, Spain and France, where the influx of infected patients was more than their health care systems were able to cope with, and another one to fear should be that of South Korea and Germany, where the epidemic retreated but then came back after the abatement of control measures.
"So you need to ensure strong capacity before opening up", Yao argued, adding that the mismanagement of de-confinement can lead to an "explosive" post-lockdown situation.
The official further cited a report published earlier this month by the WHO Regional Office for Africa, warning that more than 200 million people in Africa are at risk of contracting the coronavirus disease in the next year and the number of coronavirus-related deaths can reach up to 150,000 if no immediate action is taken.
According to the latest WHO situation report, Africa cumulatively accounts for a little more than 80,000 cases of more than 5.3 million cases detected totally.