LONDON, United Kingdom – The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, May 10, China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy is not sustainable given what is now known of the virus, in rare public comments by the UN agency on a government’s handling of the pandemic.
“We don’t think that it is sustainable considering the behavior of the virus and what we now anticipate in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing.
“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. And we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable… I think a shift would be very important.”
He said increased knowledge about the virus and better tools to combat it also suggested it was time for a change of strategy, their resolve to battle the virus with tough measures and threatened action against critics at home even as strict and prolonged lockdowns exact a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
The comments came as China’s authorities reaffirmed their commitment to fighting the virus with strong measures and warned of retaliation against opponents at home, even as the world’s second-largest economy suffers from severe and extended lockdowns.
Following Tedros, WHO emergency director Mike Ryan stated that the implications of a “zero-COVID” policy on human rights must also be considered.
“As WHO, we’ve always maintained that we need to balance control measures against their impact on society and the economy, and that’s not always a simple calibration,” Ryan explained.
With that in mind, Ryan said it’s logical that the world’s most populated country would want to take drastic measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Nonetheless, experts and residents alike have criticized China’s zero-COVID policy, which has resulted in a cycle of mass lockdowns, grief, and rage. Most other nations that shared its approach initially have now at least begun a transition to strategies to live with the virus.
The continued outbreaks also underscore how difficult it is to stop the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
When a coronavirus outbreak occurs, authorities use zero-COVID to isolate large populations to prevent viral propagation, even if only a few people test positive.
Shanghai’s precautions have been extremely rigorous, with inhabitants only being permitted to leave their complexes for rare circumstances such as medical emergencies. Many are not even permitted to leave their front doors to interact with their neighbors.
Its quarantine policy has also been criticized for isolating children from their parents and grouping asymptomatic individuals with symptomatic cases.
General Electric’s healthcare unit outlined on Tuesday the drastic measures it has taken to deal with shortages of dye used for medical scans and tests in the United States caused by the suspension of its Shanghai factory, highlighting the far-reaching impact of prolonged lockdowns on global manufacturing and critical goods supplies.