BEIJING - The World Health Organisation's (WHO) declaration that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is within reach was met with pessimism and humour in China, with millions still locked down as the country refuses to live with the coronavirus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that "we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic".
"We are not there yet, but the end is in sight," he said.
In the vibrant but closed-off world of China's Internet, the response was rueful. Many noted that this shift would not apply to China, where the government continues to prosecute Covid-19 pretty much as it did at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 - by trying to cut off transmission and wipe the pathogen out with intensive restrictions.
One online joke said the WHO boss cannot say the pandemic is near its end because Covid-19 control measures are still in full swing in China.
A hashtag on Dr Tedros' comments that quickly gathered some 4.5 million views Thursday morning appeared to have been removed, and Chinese media outlets turned off the comment function on Weibo posts sharing the news. The Chinese government heavily censors the country's Internet and social media.
Zero-Covid is inextricably bound to President Xi Jinping, which makes it particularly sensitive. Beijing defends the strategy by saying it saves lives, while criticising the United States for its more than 1 million Covid-19 deaths.
Another person wrote sarcastically: "Everything should be directed to the National Health Commission", a reference to the fact it carries out Mr Xi's strategy in China, not the WHO.
"Chinese people are living such a happy life under the distorted zero-Covid policy," another remarked.
Beijing is enforcing an even tougher version of zero-Covid before a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress due to start on Oct 16, an event that is expected to hand Mr Xi more time in power.
Areas near the capital have been locked down, testing rules tightened and domestic travel discouraged.
Economists at Goldman Sachs Group said in a report Tuesday that they did not expect Beijing to change tack on virus policy until after the annual National People's Congress some time in the first half of next year.
Other experts have warned zero-Covid could be kept in place long term, perhaps even for years. BLOOMBERG