- WHO says China’s containment measures have not stopped COVID-19
- Countries should ask whether the right people are getting enough vaccines
- An open channel between China and WHO – Ryan
GENEVA, Dec 14 (Reuters) – COVID-19 infections surged in China long before the government decided to abandon its strict “zero COVID” policy, a World Health Organization director said on Wednesday, dismissing claims of a sudden reversal. The claims lead to a surge in cases.
The comments came as WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned that the world’s second-largest economy needs to ramp up vaccinations.
He told a briefing with the media that the virus was spreading “intensively” across the country long before restrictions were lifted.
“There’s a narrative at the moment that China lifts the restrictions and all of a sudden the disease is out of control,” he said.
“The disease is spreading intensively because I believe the control measures alone will not stop the disease. And I believe China has strategically decided that is no longer the best option.”
Beijing this month began ditching its signature “zero COVID” policy after protests against economic-damaging restrictions advocated by President Xi Jinping.
The sudden easing of restrictions has led to long queues outside fever clinics, a worrying sign that a wave of infections is building, even as official tallies of new cases have trended lower recently as authorities eased testing.
In its latest COVID report for the week ending Nov. 27, the World Health Organization said China reported four consecutive weeks of increases in hospitalizations.
“So the challenge that remains for China and other countries is whether the people who need to be vaccinated are adequately vaccinated, are they getting the right vaccine and the right dose, and when were those people last vaccinated,” Ryan said.
China has rejoiced over a policy change that allows people to live with the virus amid growing fears of a surge in infections amid a population lacking “herd immunity” and low vaccination rates among the elderly.
WHO senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said the U.N. agency was providing technical advice to China, and Ryan said there were channels open.
China National Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd (600056.SS) said on Wednesday it will import and distribute Pfizer’s (PFE.N) oral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid, the first major deals announced by Western drugmakers to bring COVID treatments to China.
Earlier in the briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “hopeful” that the pandemic, which has killed more than 6.6 million people since it emerged in Wuhan, China three years ago, would stop at some point in the future. Recognized as the Year of Global Emergencies.
Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva; Writing by Josephine Mason in London; Editing by Alison Williams, Raisa Kasorowski, Alexandra Hudson
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