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China Slams WHO Chief for 'Irresponsible' Remarks on its Zero-COVID Policy

China Slams WHO Chief for 'Irresponsible' Remarks on its Zero-COVID Policy

Wednesday, 11 May, 2022 - 08:00
People walk inside a subway station in Beijing, China. Reuters

China's foreign ministry called on World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to avoid making "irresponsible" remarks, after he said China's zero-COVID policy was not sustainable.

Speaking at a regular news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian defended China's measures on fighting the pandemic and said China hopes the WHO Director-General can view China's COVID policies objectively.

The WHO chief said on Tuesday that 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," 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.

Speaking after Tedros, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said the impact of a "zero-COVID" policy on human rights also needs to be taken into consideration.

China's zero-COVID policy has drawn criticism ranging from scientists to its own citizens, leading to a cycle of lockdowns of many millions of people, anguish and anger. Most other nations that shared its approach initially have now at least begun a transition to strategies to live with the virus.

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