- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Chinese officials lashed out at the head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday for describing the communist nation’s zero-COVID policy as unsustainable.

A top official in Beijing described the comments as “irresponsible” while a draconian lockdown in Shanghai drags on and millions of others see their movements restricted, sparking vocal pushback from citizens and economic harm.

“When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy, we don’t think that it is sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday in a rare swipe at China.

“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts, and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable,” he said. “I think a shift will be very important.”

In the past, Mr. Tedros and the WHO had been accused of being too lenient in their approach to China, where the novel coronavirus was discovered in late 2019.

The WHO chief’s comments were censored in China, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hit back the following day.

“We hope the relevant individual can view Chinese COVID policy objectively and rationally and know the facts, instead of making irresponsible remarks,” he said.

Beijing has defended its policy as a life-saving measure as other nations record far more official deaths and the U.S. approaches a death toll of 1 million from the virus.

Yet scientists say China is ill-suited to deal with the omicron variant because it lacks widespread immunity from prior infections and is using vaccines that are considered less effective than messenger-RNA shots in other nations.

The weeks-long shutdown in Shanghai has been marked by people clamoring for food deliveries and shouting from their balconies. There are regular online clips of people clashing with quarantine enforcers.

While the U.S. and Western nations try to live with the virus, experts say Chinese President Xi Jinping is unlikely to back off his strict virus policies at least until after the 20th Party Congress this October.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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