China says WHO criticism ‘irresponsible’; Shanghai reaffirms zero-Covid approach | World News

China says WHO criticism ‘irresponsible’; Shanghai reaffirms zero-Covid approach | World News

Beijing on Wednesday dismissed the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief’s criticism of its zero-Covid strategy and the remarks were scrubbed from the country’s social media even before the foreign ministry’s formal response.

China’s foreign ministry said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s remarks calling Beijing’s “zero-Covid” approach unsustainable and urging an urgent policy shift given the nature of the virus were “irresponsible”. The WHO chief said he was in discussion with Chinese experts on the need for a different approach in light of new knowledge about the virus.

“When we talk about the ‘zero-Covid,’ we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Tedros said at a press conference in Geneva late on Tuesday.

“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable,” he said, adding, “Transiting into another strategy will be very important”.

In response to Tedros’ comments, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “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.”

“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 said.

“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,” Zhao added.

A United Nations post on the WHO chief’s comments was removed from on China’s Twitter-like Weibo on Wednesday morning, an indication how sensitive Beijing is about criticisms of its zero-Covid strategy.

The testy exchange came amid Covid outbreaks in Shanghai, Beijing and other provinces, which China has been trying to control through lockdowns and extensive mass testing.

On Wednesday, despite Shanghai seeing progress in controlling its Covid outbreak – the worst in China since 2020 – the deputy director of financial hub’s centre for disease control Wu Huanyu reaffirmed the zero-Covid approach, saying any relaxation in prevention and control measures could allow cases to rebound.

New cases in Shanghai dropped dramatically from more than 25,000 daily last month to 1,487 for May 10 but authorities continued their implementation of a strict lockdown in most parts of the city.

“Now is also the most difficult and critical moment for our city to achieve zero-Covid,” Wu told reporters.

Shanghai registered seven more Covid-19 deaths on May 10, bringing the death toll to 560 in the ongoing outbreak.

Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents have been locked in at home for weeks, and several strict Covid-19 control measures have been also implemented across the capital Beijing – including the shutting down of public spaces, banning dine-in and suspension of scores of subway and bus routes.

While Shanghai has logged hundreds of thousands of cases since March, Beijing’s caseload – at 892 until Wednesday 3pm (local time) since April 22 – is relatively low.

Meanwhile, a new peer-reviewed research published in the journal Nature Medicine on Tuesday said China could face an Omicron “tsunami”, which could overwhelm hospitals and kill more than 1.55 million people if it abandons its “zero-Covid” strategy.

The study found the Omicron variant of Covid “could have the potential to generate a tsunami of Covid-19 cases” and would lead to a projected intensive care unit peak demand of 15.6 times existing capacity.

The study found that the level of immunity induced by China’s March vaccination campaign would be “insufficient” to prevent an Omicron wave that would swamp intensive care capacity, given low vaccine rates among the elderly and the virus’s ability to evade immunity from existing shots, Bloomberg reported.

“Over a six-month simulation period, the wave was projected to cause 112.2 million symptomatic cases, 5.1 million hospital admissions, 2.7 million ICU admissions and nearly 1.6 million deaths,” the study conducted by Fudan University in Shanghai and the Indiana University School of Public Health said.