World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday (May 10) that in view of the current response to COVID-19 (CCP virus, new coronavirus) I understand that Beijing's zero policy on COVID-19 is unsustainable.
The CCP is currently taking drastic measures to seal off Shanghai, a city with a population of 25 million , sparking public grievances.
"Given the nature of the virus and our expectations for the future now, we don't think this ( zeroing ) is sustainable," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Tuesday.
"We have discussed this with Chinese experts. We have indicated that this approach will not be sustainable..." he said.
Tedros also said that increased understanding of the virus and better ways to fight it also showed it was time to change tack. "It's going to be very important to switch to another strategy," he said.
There is an urgent political impetus to the CCP’s response to the virus, with Chinese President Xi Jinping tying the legitimacy of his leadership to a zero policy. Despite growing public frustration, Xi Jinping continues to stick to the zero policy.
Shanghai is further tightening its strict lockdown measures, keeping millions of people confined to their homes, after Xi Jinping demanded last Thursday (May 5) to continue implementing the zero-clearing policy and resolutely crack down on any words and deeds that challenge the zero-clearing strategy. There is no end to the unblocking in sight. Desperate for the tightening, many residents have suffered more than six weeks of draconian lockdowns.
Under Shanghai's strict lockdown , residents are only allowed to leave the community for special reasons, such as medical emergencies. Many were not even allowed to step out of the front door to socialize with their neighbors. China's quarantine policy has also been criticized for separating children from their parents and placing asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms.
Speaking after Tedros, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said the human rights implications of the "zeroing" policy also needed to be considered.
"As WHO , we've always said that we need to balance controls and their impact on society, their impact on the economy, and that's not always an easy calibration," Ryan said.
At the same time, most countries around the world have now begun to transition to a strategy of coexisting with the virus.
WHO guidelines never recommend mass screening of asymptomatic individuals for the virus -- as is currently happening in China -- because of the high costs involved and a lack of efficacy data.
Globally, it is impossible to stop the virus from spreading, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead on COVID-19.
"Globally, our goal is not to find all cases and stop all transmission. That's really not possible at the moment," she said, "but what we need to do is reduce the rate of transmission because the virus is spreading so fast. "