AP reported that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about China’s “zero-COVID” policy at a media briefing on May 10.
He said the virus had changed dramatically since it was initially discovered in Wuhan in late 2019. At that time, China used lockdowns to halt its spread.
Reuters cited Tedros, “We don’t think that it is sustainable considering the behavior of the virus and what we now anticipate in the future.”
The WHO chief’s statement comes as China pursues its ‘zero-COVID’ policy to curb the outbreaks. Many countries have lifted restrictions and moved toward living with the virus.
He said, [quote] “We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. And we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable… I think a shift would be very important.”
China’s ruthless and often chaotic implementation of zero-COVID has stirred considerable resentment. In Shanghai, which has the title of an international metropolis, people have not been able to get enough food for weeks. Patients cannot seek medical treatment. Children are forcibly separated from their parents, and the elderly living alone have died unexpectedly.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said, “We have always said as WHO that we need to balance the control measures against the impact they have on society, the impact they have on the economy, and that’s not always an easy calibration.”
Ryan added that all pandemic control actions should show due respect to individual and human rights.
He said, “We understand why the initial response of China was to try and suppress infections to the maximum level that strategy is not sustainable and other elements of the strategic response needs to be amplified,”
“a suppression-only strategy is not a sustainable way to exit the pandemic for any country.”
The United Nations’ social media accounts published Tedros’ remarks in Chinese on May 10. Tedros said China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy was not sustainable.
Reuters reported that Weibo removed the post from Tedros after publication.
Internet users searched for the United Nations Weibo account’s post regarding the WHO chief’s comments. They received a notice saying that the content was illegal.
On the same day, WeChat also disabled the sharing function of the United Nations’ similar post.
Wechat explained that the article was banned from sharing because it violated relevant laws and regulations.
The following day, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to WHO’s messages, [quote] “We hope relevant people will look at China’s COVID policy in an objective and rational light, learn more about the facts, and refrain from making irresponsible remarks.
“The Chinese government’s COVID-19 policy can stand the test of history. Our science-based prevention and control measures have been proven to be effective. China is one of the countries with the most successful COVID-19 response in the world. This is a fact witnessed by the international community.”
But foreigners are leaving China due to China’s “zero-COVID” policy.
The CNN website published an article and photos of David Culver. He shared his journey of overcoming many obstacles and leaving with a pet dog after over 50 days of high-pressure lockdown in Shanghai.
In the video report, David showed scenes of resistance and conflict under the extreme lockdown.
David confirmed the strictness of the lockdown measures with Anderson Cooper on CNN. He said that one person diagnosed would result in residents of an entire apartment being forcibly taken to an isolation center.
In addition, David met some foreigners at the airport. They lived in China for 5 to 10 years, and they confirmed with David that it was time to leave the mainland.
David wrote in his article that once foreigners stepped out of the gate, they wouldn’t come back.
David said almost all passengers on the plane were grateful for leaving China, and everyone had an “escape story.”
He said he could hear the flight attendant comforting a fellow passenger seated a few behind him, “You’re out, and you’re safe now.”
At Changchun, Jilin foreigners are in the same predicament.
As reported by TVBS News, a few days ago, an American teacher Hudson living in Changchun, Jilin (长春 吉林 zhǎngchūn jílín), finally returned to the U.S. after 65 days of strict lockdown.
Hudson has been teaching at the city’s high school for six years. Initially, she planned to fly back to the U.S. after quitting her job on March 8. However, Changchun was suddenly blocked due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
The American teacher tried many times to buy a 4-stops flight ticket. But the tickets were always canceled. She tried many routes to get out of China, like Shanghai-Beijing-U.S. or Shanghai-Guangdong-U.S, but none were feasible.
The teacher added that Chinese authorities said they let people go, but you couldn’t escape from Changchun.
Reuters cited her, [quote] “There’s kind of this, ‘we’re open!’ but you can’t leave, some kind of doublespeak going on. They say they’re open, but most of the passenger flights still can’t leave.” [end quote]
She said that the water heater in her residence was broken during the lockdown and could not be repaired. Therefore, she must boil water in a frying pan to take a bath. Every day, she saw the crowds outside coming downstairs to get their nucleic acid test.
The authorities finally eased the restrictions on April 28. They allowed her to go out for 2 hours every three days to purchase necessities.
On May 11, Hudson flew from Changchun to Beijing for a connecting flight back to Los Angeles. She thinks she will leave for good and go back to California.
And other stories…
One long-term British resident in Shanghai told AFP that he planned to return home. He fears that the latest lockdown marked the beginning of a “really crazy direction.” He asks for anonymity because he hadn’t told his employer about their plans.
Rory Grimes is a British education consultant. He said that Shanghai’s lockdown has been a “complete disaster.”
He has lived in China for nine years.
He said that he was staying in a school classroom. Chinese authorities had converted the school into a mass quarantine facility. Since testing positive for the virus, he had slept on a makeshift bed for days.
AFP cited him, [quote] “You don’t feel like you’re coming somewhere to be treated… There are no medical facilities here.” [end quote]
Not only foreigners but Chinese also want to escape.
Radio Free Asia reported that keyword searches for “criteria for emigrating to Canada” on the Chinese platform increased by nearly 3,000 percent last month. Most queries were concentrated in cities and provinces with strict zero-COVID restrictions, such as Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Beijing.
According to the South China Morning Post, Guo Shize is a partner at Beijing’s Ying Zhong Law Offices. His company specializes in immigration and international studies consulting. Since the end of March, Chinese interest in his firm has doubled.
Business demand has also been strong for Hong Kong-based Famed Star Group’s office in Guangzhou, an advanced manufacturing hub and a linchpin of the Greater Bay Area.
The Hong Kong-based Famed Star Group office in Guangzhou has also seen rising demand. The firm specializes in emigration services to North America. Compared to last year, the company has witnessed a 60-70 percent rise in inquiries from southern China.
Shanghai tech director Rutina Liang and her husband want to leave Shanghai due to the city lockdown.
She said that the circumstances prompted her decision. They included the severity of some pandemic control measures and infringement on people’s freedom.
Another pair left Shanghai for Canada because of the city’s lockdown. The husband chose a new residence primarily because of China’s strict censorship, but the closing of Shanghai due to Covid-19 was the final straw.
Because of the matter’s sensitivity, the man did not want to be identified. He said his wife had been hesitant to go at first, but they had made up their minds because of the city lockdown.
The Chinese government blocked the way.
According to CNN, the Chinese National Immigration Administration announced on May 12 that it would tighten its assessment process for issuing passports. Besides, it places rigorous restrictions on individuals seeking to depart.
Travel will only be permitted for essential purposes, such as resuming work, study, business, and scientific research, and seeking medical care. The administration justified the measures as necessary to reduce the risk of infection.
Radio Free Asia reported that on March 31, the Baisha police department in Hunan asked residents to hand over their passports. Also, their family members had to do so, and the police promised that they would return the documents after the pandemic.
A Baisha officer confirmed this news with Radio Free Asia. He also said that this measure would apply nationwide.