WHO chief says China’s zero COVID policy is ‘unsustainable’

The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that China’s zero-tolerance policy against COVID-19 is not sustainable given what is now known about the virus, in rare public comments by the agency. of the UN on the handling of the pandemic by the Government.

“We don’t think it’s sustainable considering the behavior of the virus and what we now anticipate in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. And we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable‚Ķ I think a change would be very important,” he added.

He assured that greater knowledge about the virus and better tools to combat it also suggest that it was time for a change in strategy.

Speaking after Tedros, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said the impact of a “zero COVID” policy on human rights must also be taken into account.

“We’ve always said as WHO that we need to balance control measures against the impact they have on society, the impact they have on the economy, and that’s not always an easy calibration,” Ryan said.

He also noted that China has recorded 15,000 deaths since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, a relatively low number compared to nearly 1 million in the United States, more than 664,000 in Brazil and more than 524,000 in China. India.

With that in mind, it’s understandable, Ryan said, that the world’s most populous country wants to take tough measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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However, China’s zero COVID policy has drawn criticism ranging from scientists to its own citizens, leading to a cycle of multi-million-strong lockdowns, angst and anger. Most of the other countries that initially shared his approach have now at least begun a transition to strategies for living with the virus.

The continuing outbreaks also underscore how difficult it is to stop the spread of the omicron variant, which is highly transmissible.

Under the zero-COVID policy, authorities lock down large population areas to quell viral spread in response to any coronavirus outbreak, even if only a small number of people test positive.

Shanghai’s measures have been particularly strict, with residents only allowed to leave the compound for exceptional reasons, such as a medical emergency. Many are not even allowed to leave their homes to meet with neighbors.

That quarantine policy has also been criticized for separating children from their parents and putting asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms.

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