WHO says China's covid-zero policy is 'not sustainable'

Slap on the wrist to the zero covid strategy defended by China.

WHO says China's covid-zero policy is 'not sustainable'

Slap on the wrist to the zero covid strategy defended by China. From Geneva, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Tuesday that the policy championed by Beijing "is not sustainable" and that they should modify it. An unusual criticism of this body towards a country whose management it has praised on numerous occasions during the pandemic.

In his opinion, the zero tolerance policy is no longer necessary since they now have a "good understanding and good tools" about the virus and its behavior. “We have discussed this matter with Chinese experts and believe that this approach is not sustainable. A change of strategy would be important”, said the manager, who visited the Asian giant for the last time in February for the Winter Olympics.

For his part, the WHO emergencies director, Michael Ryan, added that they have always stressed the importance of striking a balance between prevention measures and the impact they have on society and the economy, something "which is not always an easy equation.

His words did not sit well in China, where its president, Xi Jinping, ratified last Friday his commitment to this approach and urged to fight against any attempt to "distort, question or challenge" this policy.

For this reason, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, today described the WHO statements as "irresponsible" and called for an "objective and rational" analysis of a strategy that has made China "one of the countries that has best managed to contain covid.” Meanwhile, his censorship was carefully applied in the task of eliminating the videos with the WHO's statements that circulated on social networks such as Weibo -the Chinese Twitter- or the Wechat messaging application.

Since the coronavirus emerged, many countries in the Indo-Pacific region (Vietnam, Singapore, Australia or New Zealand, for example), have adopted a zero tolerance policy similar to China's. Applauded in the initial phase for saving numerous lives and preventing massive infections, the appearance of vaccines and the spread of the omicron variant, less lethal despite its high level of contagion, convinced the majority that it was time to open borders and live with the virus in order to reactivate their economy.

That is not the case in Beijing, which refuses to do so under the argument of protecting the elderly population - up to 52 million people over 60 years of age had not received the full schedule of the vaccine in March - and avoid a possible hospital collapse. , especially in the poorest rural areas.

His measures have great social support, but strict confinements such as the one in Shanghai, home to 26 million people and the country's economic engine, have provoked a wave of criticism and complaints unprecedented to date.

However, recent studies such as the one prepared by Fudan University and published by the scientific journal Nature Medicine support their position. According to the text, a sudden lifting of the measures could cause a "tsunami" of infections that would leave up to 112 million symptomatically infected, 1.55 million dead and the collapsed health system.

So that this does not happen and that covid-19 can be compared to a seasonal flu, the report suggests increasing the level of vaccination among the elderly to cover 97% and that half of the symptomatic cases be treated with antiviral therapies.

As long as these types of conditions do not exist, there is nothing to suggest that the authorities will change their methods. This is what is happening in the aforementioned Shanghai, where a prolonged decrease in the number of positives (about 1,500 at the last count) and the absence of infections in half of its 16 districts in the last three days has not translated into relaxation. of the measures. "We must recognize that the current situation is not stable and the risk of a rebound still remains," said Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the local health commission.

In fact, in many parts of the city controls have been tightened to receive food that is not provided by the Government or to go to hospital emergency services. Measures to cut possible infections have also been intensified, quarantining people who live near a positive person even if they are not infected or accessing their home to thoroughly disinfect it.

Without being so extreme, numerous restrictions also remain in force in Beijing, where many businesses or educational centers remain closed and part of its population already works from home. The capital tries at all costs to avoid a seal like the one in Shanghai, and since the first cases appeared around April 20 they have not stopped testing the population (37 infections at the last count) and acting quickly to cut off any possible local broadcast chain.