Lifting coronavirus lockdown measures too early could spark a “deadly resurgence” in infections, the World Health Organization chief has warned.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should be cautious about easing restrictions, even as some struggle with the economic impact.
Europe’s worst hit countries, Spain and Italy, are both relaxing some measures, while their lockdowns continue.
Globally there are 1.6 million cases of coronavirus and 101,000 deaths.
Speaking at a virtual news conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros said there had been a “welcome slowing” of the epidemics in some European countries.
He said the WHO was working with governments to form strategies for easing restrictions, but that this should not be done too soon.
“Lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence,” he said.
“The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”
The government in Spain is preparing to allow some non-essential workers in sectors including construction and factory production to return to their jobs on Monday.
Spain recorded its lowest daily death toll in 17 days on Friday, with 605 people dying. According to the latest figures, Spain has now registered 15,843 deaths related to the virus.
However, the government has urged people to continue to uphold social distancing rules over the Easter long weekend.
In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended the national lockdown until 3 May, warning that the gains made so far should not be lost.
However, a small proportion of businesses that have been shut since 12 March will be permitted to reopen on Tuesday.
Conte specifically mentioned bookshops and children’s clothing shops, but media reports suggest laundrettes and other services may also be included.
Only grocery stores and pharmacies have been allowed to operate since the lockdown started.
The number of deaths in Italy rose by 570 on Friday, down from a daily figure of 610 the day before, and the number of new cases also slowed slightly to 3,951 from 4,204. (Text: BBC)