May 10, 2022 - World

WHO chief: China's zero-COVID strategy not "sustainable"

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images

China's "zero-COVID" strategy isn't sustainable given the virus' ever-evolving nature, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing Tuesday.

The big picture: Tedros said WHO officials have spoken to Chinese experts about the policy. The extreme measures have saved lives, but they've also led to food shortages, a lack of workers and movement restrictions, writes Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

What he's saying: "When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy, we don't think that it's sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future," Tedros said.

  • "I think a shift will be very important. ... Now we know a lot about the virus and we have better tools, so these are the additional opportunities that we have to make a shift."

Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting with top leaders said the country will stick to its strategy, and officials vowed to "resolutely fight" against any questioning of its virus control policies, according to CNBC.

  • “We have won the battle to defend Wuhan, and can certainly win the battle to defend Shanghai,” read the official readout from the meeting, per CNBC.

State of play: In March, China instituted a lockdown in Shanghai, its largest city and financial capital, to tamp down a rise in cases.

  • Shanghai authorities two weeks later eased the lockdown amid a food crisis that saw residents scrambling for access to food and medicine.

Shanghai officials again tightened pandemic restrictions on Tuesday, AP reported.

  • Parts of the city have been forced into "quiet periods," with officials revoking permits allowing residents to go out for limited shopping and closing supermarkets except for delivery services.
  • Service on the city's two metro lines that were still operating has also been suspended.
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