Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Secretary-General of the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday that China’s zero-COVID strategy was no longer viable in the face of the highly infectious but less fatal Omicron virus outbreak.
This comes on the heels of a six-week lockdown of 25 million residents of the Chinese city of Shanghai, as well as restrictions on the movement of people in Beijing, with reports of people being separated from their children, being forced into sparse government quarantine facilities, and running out of food among the casualties of the lockdown.
As Tedros said, “When we speak about the zero-Covid plan, we don’t believe it’s sustainable when you consider the virus’s current behaviour and what we predict in the future.”
He went on to say that switching to a different approach would be very crucial.” “We have addressed this matter with Chinese specialists, and we have concluded that the method will not be sustainable in light of the virus’s behaviour.” “I believe that a paradigm change will be really crucial.”
Chinese officials pledged to “unwaveringly adhere to the general policy of ‘dynamic zero-Covid,’ and resolutely fight against any words and acts that distort, doubt, or deny our country’s epidemic prevention policies” during a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s supreme Politburo Standing Committee, according to CNN.
It’s important to weigh the effectiveness of control measures against the impact they have on society and the economy, and this is not always a simple calibration,” said Dr Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies, who applauded China for having a low death toll of roughly 15,000.
It was necessary to demonstrate “appropriate regard for individual and human rights” as well as to “balance the control measures against the influence they have on society,” Ryan said, adding that
According to Ryan, it is critical for countries to be able to “adjust in accordance with the circumstances, with what you see in the data, and with what is in the best interest of your population,” and Dr Tedros has been involved in extensive discussions with Chinese colleagues in order to devise an exit strategy from China’s zero-COVID policy.
It was “really not feasible” to locate and halt all transmissions of COVID-19 due to the virus’ development into the highly transmissible Omicron and its sub-lineages, according to Dr Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s lead on COVID-19 investigation.
“However, we need to reduce transmission since the virus is circulating at such a high level,” Van Kerkhove said, adding that the World Health Organization (WHO) has the obligation to provide member countries with the best guidance possible.