• China will continue sticking to its "zero Covid" policy, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday.
  • This is despite the economic risks that come with the strategy, he added during a visit to Wuhan.
  • He said taking a "herd immunity" approach in China could lead to "unimaginable" consequences.

China will stick to its controversial "zero Covid" policy even if it means hurting the country's economy, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday.

"We would rather temporarily affect a little economic development than risk harming people's life safety and physical health, especially the elderly and children," he said during a visit to Wuhan, the city where COVID-19 was first detected, per state news agency Xinhua. 

"Our country has a large population. Such strategies as 'herd immunity' and 'lying flat' would lead to consequences that are unimaginable," he continued. Both herd immunity as well as "lying flat" — Chinese slang for doing the bare minimum — refers to strategies that involve living with the virus.

Xi also reaffirmed China's "zero Covid" policy last month, calling it "scientific and effective."

China's strategy, which involves sudden lockdowns and mass testing, was largely successful at the start of the pandemic, with citizens enjoying relatively normal lives while the rest of the world struggled to contain Covid outbreaks. 

The country's Covid death toll of 14,625 is also low compared to other countries. The US, for example, has recorded more than 1 million Covid deaths

However, China's recent attempts to completely stamp out the coronavirus have proven ineffective due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant — and citizens are losing patience.

For instance, the authorities' chaotic handling of Shanghai's Covid outbreak in April and May — including a harsh policy that separated parents from their Covid-positive children — has led to widespread anger and frustration. 

Last month, the World Health Organization head, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said China's "zero Covid" strategy was "not sustainable," in a rare criticism of a government's handling of the virus.

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