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Monday, February 6, 2023
HomeWorldChina abandons 'zero case' policy after riots

China abandons ‘zero case’ policy after riots

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“We are pleased to learn that the Chinese authorities are adapting their existing strategy and are indeed trying now to scale up the control measures of this virus which are essential for life, livelihood and human rights,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program during the regular press briefing in Geneva.

The World Health Organization on Friday welcomed the relaxation of China’s anti-Covid strategy, following angry protests against Beijing’s zero-case policy.

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“We are pleased to learn that the Chinese authorities are adapting their existing strategy and are indeed trying now to scale up the control measures of this virus which are essential for life, livelihood and human rights,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program during the regular press briefing in Geneva.

“It’s really important that governments listen to their citizens when people are suffering. We really want to see that adjustment happen and accelerate,” insisted Dr. Ryan.

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Chinese anger at the tough health line to fight the pandemic spilled over the weekend in a mobilization unprecedented in decades.

Authorities responded quickly by increasing police presence and stepping up monitoring of social media.

At the same time, several cities began to relax restrictions, such as abandoning the mass daily tests that are one of the tedious pillars of life under the policy of zero Covid cases, which has been in place for almost three years.

Today, Chinese President Xi Jinping — who imposed the zero-case Covid policy — argued that the less lethal ‘Omicron’ variant of the virus allows for “more flexibility” in restrictions.

Dr. Ryan insisted that the unprecedented transmissibility of the ‘Omicron’ variant of the virus made the zero-case Covid policy, which might have been able to work on earlier variants or even the original strain, pretty much meaningless.

“It’s really hard to stop this and it slips through your fingers very, very quickly,” he said, adding that “we have to try to protect the most vulnerable. When we can’t stop a fire, we move people away. And the way to keep people away from the fire in this case is to vaccinate.”

For his part, the director general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, once again warned of the continuing danger of a pandemic that is not over. “We are much closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over, but we are not there yet,” he said during the press briefing. “Gaps in surveillance, testing, contact tracing and vaccination continue to create the ideal conditions for a new and worrying variant to emerge,” he warned.

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