China’s much-touted dynamic zero COVID policy came under sharp criticism from the WHO which termed it unsustainable in view of the constantly changing behaviour of the coronavirus and called on Beijing to shift its strategy. World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this on Tuesday while commenting on China’s zero COVID policy adding that China has conveyed it to Chinese experts.
Under this policy, China has imposed strict measures, locking down city of Shanghai with its 25 million people at home for close to two months as the country combats its worst outbreak since the pandemic began in 2020. The Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday denounced the head of the World Health Organization terming his remarks as “irresponsible”.
China is facing rising pressure over the prolonged lockdown in Shanghai and the huge social costs of its zero-tolerance policy, including residents in the country’s wealthiest city running out of food creating huge outrage and rare public protest.
Capital Beijing has been in semi-lockdown as is relying on daily mass testing of its 21 million population in most parts of the city for more last ten days now. From Thursday, three more rounds of mass testing have been announced and the city has also mandated show of negative nucleic acid test taken within 48 hours for entry into any public places.
In a bid to restrict the movement of people across districts, City authorities have also restricted ride-hailing services from taking cross district travelers in Beijing except the airport. Most affected districts like Shunyi, Fengshan and southern part of Chaoyang have banned ride-hailing services and city has suspended public transport in these areas. Many localities in capital city have been locked down, several parks have been closed and. Restaurant dining remains banned while schools will remain online till further notice.
Public venues, activities, entertainment venues etc. remain closed. On Thursday, city authorities again refuted a rumor of city-wide lockdown assuring that city has sufficient supply of daily provisions but cautioned the public to consume rationally.
“When we talk about zero COVID strategy, we don’t think it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus now what we anticipate in the future, especially when we have now the good knowledge and understanding of the virus,” Tedros told a media briefing in Geneva. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, added that the impact of a “zero Covid” policy on human rights needed to be taken into consideration alongside its economic effect. “We need to balance the control measures against the impact on society, the impact they have on the economy, and that’s not always an easy calibration,” he said.
As China continues to wage a grim battle to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, President Xi has strictly instructed officials to steadfastly abide by the dynamic zero-COVID policy, saying that the epidemic prevention has reached a crucial stage.
Last week, China cancelled the 2022 Asian Games scheduled to be held in Hangzhou in September and the World University Games due to start in Chengdu in late June as entire machinery is focusing on stability ahead of a politically important communist party session where President Xi Jinping is expected to take the reins of the country for third time breaking away from the precedent.