Lockdowns could be avoided if everyone followed health measures such as wearing masks, the World Health Organization's top Europe official said at a Thursday news briefing.
WHO Europe's Regional Director Hans Kluge stressed that lockdowns should be a "last resort," and urged the public to follow guidance to help to prevent deaths.
He said that if 95% of people wore masks, instead of the current 60%, "lockdowns would not be needed" -- although he added that mask use was not a "panacea" and needed to be combined with other measures.
"If we all do our share, lockdowns are avoidable," Kluge said.
He noted that hundreds of millions of people are currently living under lockdowns, which require economic support and cause job losses, disruption to health services and collateral damage in terms of mental health, substance abuse and gender-based violence.
Kluge, speaking in Copenhagen, Denmark, warned of the "negative impact of easing too quickly," saying restrictions should only be relaxed gradually.