China’s Covid-19 surge not due to lifting of rigid curbs, says top WHO official

China’s Covid-19 surge not due to lifting of rigid curbs, says top WHO official

Earlier this month, China had started gradually lifting its “zero-Covid” policy and lockdowns in several provinces after people took to the streets against the stringent restrictions imposed on them to stop the spread of the infection. AP

Geneva: China had started witnessing a massive surge in Covid-19 infections before the Chinese government decided to lift its strict “zero-Covid” policy, a World Health Organization (WHO) director said on Wednesday, refuting claims that the abrupt withdrawal of restrictions had led to the sudden spike in cases.

 WHO’s emergencies director Mike Ryan cautioned the Chinese that the need of the hour was to ramp up vaccinations in China as he pointed out that infections had started spreading even before the Chinese government had decided to lift curbs after being hit by waves of rare protests.

 Ryan said the virus was spreading “intensively in the nation long before the lifting of restrictions. “There’s a narrative at the moment that China lifted the restrictions and all of a sudden the disease is out of control,” he said.

“The disease was spreading intensively because I believe the control measures in themselves were not stopping the disease. And I believe China decided strategically that was not the best option anymore,” he said.

 Earlier this month, China had started gradually lifting its “zero-Covid” policy and lockdowns in several provinces after people took to the streets against the stringent restrictions imposed on them to stop the spread of the infection, in a rare show of protest in mainland China.

The sudden easing of restrictions triggered long queues outside fever clinics amid fears that a wave of infections was in the offing, even though official tallies of new Covid-19 cases started dipping as the government took a step back on testing.

In its most recent Covid-19 report for the week to 27 November, the World Health Organization said China had reported increasing hospitalisations for four consecutive weeks.

“So the challenge that China and other countries still have is: are the people that need to be vaccinated, adequately vaccinated, with the right vaccines and the right number of doses and when was the last time those people had the vaccines,” said Ryan.

 WHO’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said the UN agency was providing technical advice to China and Ryan said there were open channels.

Among the first major announcements in which a Western drug maker will supply China with Covid-19 therapies, China Meheco Group Co Ltd (600056.SS) said on Wednesday that it would import and distribute Pfizer’s (PFE.N) oral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid.

Earlier in the briefing, WHO chief 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, will no longer be considered a global emergency sometime next year.

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