Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

China’s Zero COVID Policy is Unsustainable: WHO

It is not sustainable if we take into account the behaviour of the virus and what we anticipate for the future, said WHO DG Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus.
May 11, 2022
Zero COVID Policy

The “zero COVID” policy that Chinese authorities are applying in the face of the latest spike in cases is not sustainable given current knowledge about the coronavirus, said the director of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We believe that it is not sustainable if we take into account the behaviour of the virus and what we anticipate for the future,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus.

“Now we have a good understanding of the virus and good tools. Transitioning to another strategy would be very important. We have discussed it with Chinese experts and we have indicated that the approach is not sustainable and I think a change would be very important,” added Tedros.

Under the “zero-COVID” policy, large areas of the population in China are confined to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, even if only a small number of people test positive.

The measures in Shanghai have been stringent, with residents only allowed to leave the premises for exceptional reasons, such as a medical emergency. Many are not even allowed to leave their front door.

Executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, said that since China has managed to keep the number of deaths relatively low, with 15,000 dead during the pandemic, it is understandable that the authorities want to control the latest outbreaks. Still, any policy must have in consideration of human rights. “We have always said as WHO that a balance must be struck between control measures and the impact they have on society and the economy and that it is not always an easy equation,” Ryan stressed.

COVID -19 cases have increased in more than 50 countries, “highlighting the volatility of this virus,” Tedros said.

Omicron, specifically BA.4 and BA.5, is driving the upswing in South Africa, while BA.2 is dominant worldwide.

The relatively high immunity of the population due to vaccination and previous waves is keeping hospitalization and death rates comparatively low compared to previous waves.