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WHO Saying Pandemic End in Sight Falls Flat in Zero-COVID China

WHO Saying Pandemic End in Sight Falls Flat in Zero-COVID China
folder_openAsia-Pacific... access_time 12 days ago
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By Staff, Agencies

The World Health Organization’s [WHO] declaration that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is within reach was met with pessimism and humor in China, with millions still locked down as the country refuses to live with the coronavirus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that "we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic".

"We are not there yet, but the end is in sight," he said.

Zero-COVID is inextricably bound to President Xi Jinping, which makes it particularly sensitive. Beijing defends the strategy by saying it saves lives, while criticizing the United States for its more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths.

One online joke said the WHO boss can’t say the pandemic is near its end because COVID control measures are still in full swing in China. A hashtag on Tedros’s comments that quickly gathered some 4.5 million views Thursday morning local time appeared to have been removed.

Another person wrote sarcastically: "Everything should be directed to the National Health Commission", a reference to the fact it carries out Xi's strategy in China, not the WHO.

"Chinese people are living such a happy life under the distorted zero-COVID policy," another remarked.

Beijing is enforcing an even tougher version of zero-COVID before a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress due to start on Oct 16, an event that is expected to hand Xi more time in power.

Areas near the capital have been locked down, testing rules tightened and domestic travel discouraged.

Economists at Goldman Sachs Group said in a report Tuesday that they did not expect Beijing to change tack on virus policy until after the annual National People's Congress sometime in the first half of next year.

Other experts have warned zero-COVID could be kept in place long term, perhaps even for years.