The World Health Organization says China’s zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19 is not sustainable, while health experts warn that tracking the pandemic is becoming more difficult as infection testing has plummeted around the world.
“We do not believe that this is sustainable, given the behavior of the virus and what we now expect in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedras Adhanom Gebreies told a news briefing.
“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. And we have shown that the approach will not be sustainable … I think a shift would be very important. “
He said expanding knowledge about the virus and the best tools to fight it also suggests it is time to change strategy.
The comments came after Chinese leaders reiterated their determination to fight the virus harshly and threatened action against critics at home, even as tight and prolonged blockades inflict heavy losses on the world’s second-largest economy.
Speaking after Tedras, WHO Emergency Director Mike Ryan said the impact of the “zero COVID” policy on human rights also needs to be considered.
“We have always said, as the WHO, that we need to balance control measures with the impact they have on society, the impact on the economy, and this is not always a simple calibration,” Ryan said.
He also noted that 15,000 deaths have been reported in China since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 – a relatively low number compared to nearly a million in the United States, more than 664,000 in Brazil and more than 524,000 in India.
Given this, of course, Ryan said the world’s most populous country would like to take tough measures to curb coronavirus infection.
However, China’s zero-COVID-19 policy has drawn criticism, ranging from scientists to its own citizens, leading to a cycle of closure of many millions of people, suffering and anger.
Most other countries that originally shared his approach have now, at least, begun the transition to life strategies with the virus.
Prolonged outbreaks also underscore how difficult it is to stop the spread of the Omicron variant with a high degree of transmissibility.
With zero COVID-19, authorities are blocking large areas of the population to stop the spread of the virus in response to any outbreak of coronavirus, even if only a small number of people have tested positive.
Shanghai’s measures were particularly strict, residents were allowed to leave the complexes only for exceptional reasons, such as in the case of emergency medical care.
Her quarantine policy has also been criticized for separating children from their parents and placing asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms.
Meanwhile, health experts say testing fell 70-90 percent worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year – on the contrary, which they say should happen with new Omicron variants growing in such locations. both the United States and South Africa.
“We do not conduct tests where necessary,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, who runs the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University.
“We need the opportunity to step up testing as we watch new waves or jumps appear to keep track of what’s going on” and respond.
For example, daily cases in the U.S. average 73,633, up more than 40 percent over the past two weeks, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
But this is a significant understatement due to the decline in testing and the fact that the tests take place at home and are not reported to the health department.
The drop in testing is global, but overall figures are particularly inadequate in the developing world, Udayakumar said.
According to the Geneva-based non-profit health organization FIND, the number of tests per 1,000 people in high-income countries is about 96 times higher than in low-income countries.
Experts point to fatigue from COVID-19, a lull in cases after the first wave of Omicron and a feeling in some low-income residents that there is no reason to check because they do not have access to antiviral drugs.
At a recent WHO press briefing, FIND Director-General Bill Rodriguez called the testing “the first victim of a global decision not to be wary” and said “we are becoming blind to what is happening with the virus”.
with AP reports