World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said that China’s zero-tolerance policy to curb Covid-19 is unsustainable, The Guardian reported.

Under the zero-tolerance policy, strict lockdowns are imposed in several cities. Food is distributed to the residents as they are not allowed to step out of their homes. The policy also includes travel bans and mass testing.

“We do not think that it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus and what we anticipate in the future,” Ghebreyesus told a media briefing, according to CNN. “A shift [in policy] would be very important”.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairrs spokesperson Zhao Lijian described the health body’s remarks as irresponsible.

“We hope the relevant individual can view Chinese Covid policy objectively and rationally and know the facts, instead of making irresponsible remarks,” Lijian said, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organisation’s Emergencies Director, Mike Ryan, noted that the zero-tolerance coronavirus policy needs to take into account the impacts on human rights and economic consequences, The Guardian reported.

China reported 15,000 deaths since the pandemic struck Wuhan in 2019, a lower figure compared to nearly one million fatalities in the United States and over five lakh in India, said Ryan.

The zero-tolerance policy is currently in force in Shanghai, which is seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. The city of 25 million people has been locked down for six weeks.

The curbs have impacted the supply of food and other essential items. Most of the supermarkets in the city have been shut as well.

A video that recently surfaced on Twitter showed residents screaming in frustration from their balconies amid the draconian lockdown.

Some have even complained on social media about the lack of access to medicines or hospital treatments. Many are relying on parcels of vegetables being supplied by the government.