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  • An unemployed family performs activities at home, San Jose, Costa Rica, April 4, 2020.

    An unemployed family performs activities at home, San Jose, Costa Rica, April 4, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 16 April 2020

The UN agency has replaced the expression “social distancing” with “physical distancing” to emphasize the importance of human contact.

The World Health Organization (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Thursday acknowledged that physical distancing "is almost impossible" in poor countries and asked their governments to exercise caution when imposing confinements.

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"Authorities should consider that in some countries and communities orders to stay home may not be practical and may even cause unintentional harm," Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"Millions of people around the world must work every day to have food on the table. They cannot stay home for a long period without help," he stressed and expressed concern at episodes of violence prompted by restrictions.

Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that the pandemic has prevented millions of poor children from attending schools, which are often places where they access food and health care.

He noted that the increase in COVID-19-related deaths remains "tragic and alarming,", although some of the worst affected countries show encouraging signs that the disease is receding.

On Wednesday, WHO officials also reminded people worldwide of the value of remaining in contact with their families and friends.

Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Unit Maria van Kerhkove recalled that her agency has replaced the expression “social distancing” with “physical distancing” to emphasize the importance of human contact.

“There’s no lockdown on laughter; there’s no lockdown on talking to your family and finding ways to connect,” she said.

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