As China continues its coronavirus-related lockdowns, the head of the World Health Organization said the Chinese policy is “not sustainable.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who leads the WHO, said the dynamics of the omicron variant of COVID-19 make it too challenging to prevent all cases.
“As we all know the virus is evolving, changing its behaviors, becoming more transmissible and with that changing behavior, changing your measures will be very important,” he said. “When we talk about the zero COVID strategy, we don’t think that it is sustainable considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future, and especially when we have now a good knowledge, understanding of the virus.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, who heads the WHO’s emergencies programs, agreed and added it is important to balance human rights with public health concerns.
“But all of those actions, as we’ve said since the beginning, should show due respect to individual and human rights,” Ryan said. “We always have said, as WHO, that 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 to make.”
Despite the COVID-19 virus originating in China, the nation has reported far fewer deaths tied to COVID than most nations. According to Johns Hopkins University, China has reported 14,533 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Even though China has a population nearly four times greater than the U.S., the U.S. has reported nearly 69 times the number of deaths.
The Associated Press reported that 2 million people remained in lockdown as of Wednesday in the Shanghai region, with 23 million others having their restrictions slightly relaxed.
Chinese officials have defended the policy.
“We hope that relevant people can view China’s policy of epidemic prevention and control objectively and rationally, get more knowledge about the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks,” Zhao Lijian, a ministry spokesperson, told the reporters.
“The Chinese government’s policy of epidemic prevention and control can stand the test of history, and our prevention and control measures are scientific and effective,” Zhao added. “China is one of the most successful countries in epidemic prevention and control in the world, which is obvious to all of the international community.”