"When we talk about a zero Covid strategy, we don't think it's sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus at the moment and the one we expect in the future (...) moving to a different strategy is very important “, he said during a press briefing by the World Health Organization in Geneva.

“As Dr. Tedros said, you have to have this ability to adapt to the circumstances, to what you see in the data (…) and he talked about it in detail with the Chinese colleagues”, added its director of emergency situations, Michael Ryan.

He recalled that for a time this strategy allowed China to post a very small number of deaths compared to its population.

"It's something that China wants to protect," acknowledged Dr. Ryan.

Faced with the rise in the death toll since February-March, it is logical for the government to react, noted Michael Ryan, "but all these actions, as we have repeated from the beginning, must be taken with respect for individuals and human rights".

Late last week, China again said it would continue with its zero Covid strategy, a "major asset" against the coronavirus, despite growing frustration in Shanghai where confined residents are now protesting by banging their pans on the windows. .

Largely spared for two years, the Asian giant is facing its worst epidemic outbreak since the spring of 2020 and continues to apply the same policy even as the virus has mutated and has become much more contagious than the original strain detected in China at the end of 2019.

According to the Chinese authorities - including President Xi Jinping who has put all his weight in the balance for the pursuit of this strategy - the zero Covid policy has allowed the Chinese to live almost normally since 2020 and to limit the number of deaths to less than 5,000 according to the official report.

But the Omicron variant changed that.

Dr Ryan called for "dynamic, adaptable and flexible policies", because the lack of adaptability has shown during this pandemic that it can cause "a lot of damage".

Maria Van Kerkhove, in charge of supervising the fight against Covid within the WHO, insisted on the fact that it was today impossible to stop all transmission of the virus.

"Our global goal is not to identify all cases and stop all transmission. That's really not possible at the moment," she acknowledged, and insisted: "But what we need to do is reduce the rate of transmission because the virus is circulating at such a high level of intensity."

© 2022 AFP