Staff members of Shanghai Pudong International Airport line up at a nucleic acid testing site in Shanghai. Reuters
While China’s largest city has seen progress in controlling the COVID-19 outbreak, any relaxation in prevention and control measures could allow it to rebound, deputy director of Shanghai’s Center for Disease Control Wu Huanyu told reporters.
"At the same time, now is also the most difficult and critical moment for our city to achieve zero-COVID," Wu said at a daily briefing.
"Should we relax our vigilance, the epidemic may rebound, so it is necessary to persistently implement the prevention and control work without relaxing,” he said.
Wu gave no indication he was aware of the comments by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said he had been holding discussions with Chinese experts on the need to transition to a new approach in light of new knowledge about the virus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a meeting. File photo
"When we talk about the ‘zero-COVID,' we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future," Tedros said at a news briefing Tuesday.
"And especially when we have now a good knowledge, understanding of the virus and when we have good tools to use, transitioning to another strategy will be very important," he said.
Tedros was joined by Mike Ryan, the WHO's emergencies chief, who said all pandemic control actions should "show due respect to individual and human rights."
Countries need to "balance the control measures, the impact on society, the impact on the economy. That is not always an easy calibration to make," Ryan said.
China's ruling Communist Party has strictly controlled all discussion about its controversial approach, which aims to totally stamp out outbreaks, and said it would tolerate no criticism. The entirely state-controlled media did not report on the comments by Tedros and Ryan and references to them on the Chinese internet appeared to have been removed by censors.
China's financial hub of Shanghai continued to report a spike in cases, with companies in the country struggling to maintain output amid stringent curbs.
Many residents in the city of 26 million have been confined to their homes for up to three weeks as China maintains its "zero-COVID” strategy of handling outbreaks with strict isolation and mass testing.
The city, battling China's biggest coronavirus outbreak so far, recorded 20,634 new local asymptomatic infections on Friday, rebounding from 15,698 a day earlier. Total new symptomatic cases reached 2,736, up from 1,931 on April 21, official data showed.
As authorities wrestle with China's worst COVID outbreaks since the epidemic began, authorities in its most populous city of Shanghai have launched a new push to end infections outside quarantine zones by late May.
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