China’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy to defeat Covid-19 outbreak is unsustainable, says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said that China’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy to defeat the Covid-19 outbreak is unsustainable, and that it has asked Beijing to initiate a policy shift in order to tackle the surging caseload. “We don’t think that it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing in Geneva late on Tuesday.
The WHO’s statement comes amid belligerent Covid-19 outbreaks in Shanghai, Beijing and other provinces, which China has been attempting to control through lockdowns and mass tests.
Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents have been locked in at home for weeks and several strict Covid-19 control measures have been implemented across Beijing, including the shutting down of public spaces, banning dine-ins and suspension of scores of subway stations and bus routes.
While Shanghai has logged hundreds of thousands of cases and over 500 deaths since March, Beijing’s caseload – at around 900 – remains low. The economic impact has been huge with the global supply chain badly affected, especially with the Shanghai shutdown.
The Chinese government, led by President Xi Jinping’s strong statement last week, has vowed to continue its dynamic zero-Covid strategy, saying any laxity could trigger many more cases, deaths and impact the health infrastructure.
However, the WHO said these measures aren’t working.
“When we talk about the zero-Covid strategy, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Ghebreyesus said.
“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable,” he said, adding, “transiting into another strategy will be very important.”
“We need to balance the control measures against the impact they have on society, the impact they have on the economy, and that’s not always an easy calibration,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said. Ryan said any measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic should show “due respect to individual and human rights”.
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