China is completely capable of implementing its dynamic zero-COVID policy, as it is formulated in accordance with the country's own conditions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday after World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented on the policy.
"China's dynamic zero-COVID policy is not aimed at realizing zero infection, but rather at bringing the epidemic situation under control with the minimum social cost and in the shortest time possible," Zhao said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.
He said the one and only purpose of the policy is to effectively protect the health of more than 1.4 billion Chinese to the maximum while securing sustainable and stable socioeconomic development.
"Now the overwhelming majority of the Chinese population in most parts of the country are enjoying normal lives and production. And China's national infection rate and mortality rate for COVID-19 remain at the lowest level in the world," he said.
In March, a systematic analysis of COVID-related mortality published in The Lancet estimated that the global all-age rate of mortality due to the COVID pandemic was 120.3 deaths per 100,000 of population.
While the mortality rate due to COVID-19 was 179.3 per 100,000 in the United States, the figure was only 0.6 per 100,000 in China, according to the analysis.
"It is thanks to the dynamic zero-COVID policy that China has withstood the most challenging COVID-19 control test since the anti-epidemic battle of Wuhan in early 2020," Zhao said. "China is one of the countries with the most successful COVID response in the world. This is a reality witnessed by the international community."
The spokesman mentioned a new study saying that China faces an Omicron "tsunami" that could overwhelm hospitals and kill more than 1.5 million people if it abandons its dynamic zero-COVID strategy.
China's huge population also means that relaxing prevention and control measures would inevitably lead to the death of a large number of elderly people, he said.
"China's dynamic zero-COVID policy has offered effective protection to the elderly and vulnerable groups with underlying health conditions. It is distinctly different from the 'herd immunity' and 'natural immunity' approaches followed by some countries not long ago," Zhao said.
A Beijing-based epidemiologist who requested anonymity said that in February, senior WHO experts like Mike Ryan and Maria Van Kerkhove had said at a news briefing that every country should chart its own path out of the pandemic.
"This is exactly what China has been doing. We want to find an alternative to the coexistence strategy that many other countries are adopting, because China cannot live with COVID with its current conditions without paying enormous social and economic costs," he added.