In a statement, WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that China’s draconian approach to the containment of the coronavirus was unsustainable due to the omicron strain’s highly contagious nature, stressing that every country must choose the best approach.
During a news conference, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called China’s “zero COVID” strategy “unsustainable,” mirroring Beijing’s words last week.
“Because we know more about the virus and have more tools, including vaccines,” Tedros explained, “managing the virus should be different now than it was at the beginning of the pandemic.” According to the official, the virus has changed considerably since it was discovered in Wuhan in late 2019 when China essentially halted its spread through lockdowns.
Tedros went on to note that while the WHO has frequently advised Chinese officials on the COVID-19 containment tactics that it endorses, “the decision of policy is up to each country.”
The strict and often haphazard implementation of China’s “zero COVID” policy has instilled rage and exacerbated food shortages in Shanghai, where some people have been separated for six weeks.
The WHO’s chief of emergency, Dr. Michael Ryan, remarked that the WHO understood that China had recently faced a complicated situation due to the coronavirus and praised the authorities for keeping the number of deaths to a very low level.
“We understand why China’s initial approach was to attempt to reduce infections at the highest level,” he said, adding that “a strategy that just entails suppression is not a practical way out of the pandemic for any country.”
Tedros, on the other hand, indicated that the WHO is attempting to persuade North Korea and Eritrea to embark on COVID-19 immunization campaigns.
“The WHO is very concerned about the potential of further spread (in North Korea),” he said, noting that the population is unvaccinated and that many people with pre-existing illnesses are at risk of serious illness.
According to Tedros, the WHO has asked Pyongyang for more information on the outbreak but has received no response. The hermetic nation just recently revealed its first outbreak, which infected over 1.7 million people. Even though not enough tests have been performed to confirm a substantial number of COVID-19 positives, outside specialists believe the coronavirus is to account for the vast majority of fever cases.
Ryan acknowledged that unchecked expansion in countries like North Korea and Eritrea could lead to the formation of new strains, but he also acknowledged that the WHO has the right to act unless such governments agree.