The director of the World Health Organization has said that the rise in coronavirus in China is not due to the lifting of restrictions

  • The World Health Organization says Chinese control measures have not stopped COVID-19
  • Countries should ask if suitable people have been adequately vaccinated
  • Opening channels between China and the World Health Organization – Ryan

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that COVID-19 cases were explosive in China long before the government decided to abandon its strict “zero COVID” policy, dismissing suggestions that the sudden reversal caused a spike. in cases.

The comments by WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan came as he warned of the need to ramp up vaccinations in the world’s No. 2 economy.

He said in a media briefing that the virus was spreading “extensively” in the country long before restrictions were lifted.

“There is a narrative at the moment that China lifted the restrictions and suddenly the disease got out of control,” he said.

“The disease was spreading more intensely because I think the control measures in themselves weren’t stopping the disease. And I think China strategically decided that wasn’t the best option anymore.”

Beijing began moving away from its signature “zero COVID” policy this month after protests against economically devastating restrictions called for by President Xi Jinping.

The sudden easing of restrictions has led to long lines outside fever clinics in a worrying sign of a rising wave of infections, although official numbers of new cases have recently trended lower as authorities backtrack on testing.

In its latest COVID report for the week ending November 27, the World Health Organization said China had reported an increase in hospitalizations for four consecutive weeks.

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

Western vaccine

The euphoria in China that greeted changes in policy allowing people to live with the virus has quickly faded amid growing fears of a surge in infections because the population lacks “herd immunity” and has low vaccination rates among the elderly.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s chief epidemiologist, said the UN agency is providing technical advice to China, and Ryan said there are open channels.

Among the first announced major deals under which a Western pharmaceutical company will supply China with COVID treatments is China Meheco Group Co Ltd. (600056.SS) On Wednesday, it said it would import and distribute Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) Treatment of COVID-19 Oral 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 not be considered a global emergency at some point in the future. . general.

(Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva). Josephine Mason wrote in London; Editing by Allison Williams, Raisa Kasulowski, Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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