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China has called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to stop making "irresponsible" remarks after the agency's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus termed the country's zero Covid policy unsustainable.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian defended the lockdown-dependent Covid zero approach and said: “We hope the relevant individual will make objective and reasonable views of China’s epidemic protocol and policy and try to get a better understanding of the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks."

The country has also taken measures to censor online debate over its strategy and snuff out Tedros' comments. 

Searches for the hashtags "#Tedros#" and "#who#" on the popular Weibo social media platform displayed no results, while users of the WeChat app were unable to share an article posted on an official United Nations account on Wednesday. 

A social media hashtag about the WHO's comments, which had been a rallying point for lively online discussion, appeared to have been blocked by mid-morning.

What did the WHO chief say?

WHO director-general Tedros on Tuesday called China's policy unsustainable in view of the constantly changing behaviour of the coronavirus and called on Beijing to shift its strategy.

“As we all know the virus is evolving, changing its behaviour and becoming more transmissible. With that changing behaviour, changing your measures will be very important," Tedros said.

“When we talk about zero Covid strategy, we don't think it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus now what we anticipate in the future, especially when we have now the good knowledge and understanding of the virus," he told a media briefing in Geneva.

With the availability of good tools, transiting into another strategy will be very important, Tedros said in the recording of his press conference circulated by the WHO to the media.

"We have discussed about this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus I think a shift will be very important," he said in strong comments critical of China’s zero Covid policy pursued vigorously by Beijing under the directives of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Covid situation in China

On Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission reported 1,847 cases, mostly from Shanghai, the country’s business hub with over 25 million population, which remained under lockdown for over a month.

Also, the capital Beijing, which is under semi-lockdown, conducted the ninth nucleic acid test on Wednesday for its over 21 million people. The 10th test will be conducted on Thursday.

Since the deadly coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, it has claimed the lives of 62,55,791 people and infected more than 51,87,94,928.

Chinese president on country's policy

As China continues to wage a grim battle to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, President Xi has been prodding officials to strictly adhere to the zero Covid policy, saying that epidemic prevention has reached a crucial stage.

In his much-publicised comments at the ruling Communist Party’s high power political bureau meeting in Beijing to review the Covid-19 situation on May 4, President Xi stressed that epidemic prevention and control is at a critical stage and called for efforts to adhere to the dynamic zero-Covid policy.

Last week, China cancelled the 2022 Asian Games scheduled to be held in Hangzhou in September and the World University Games due to start in Chengdu in late June.

 

 

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