IT IS time for China to move away from massive lockdowns and toward a more targeted approach to Covid-19, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said days after widespread protests broke out, a change that would ease the impact on a world economy already struggling with high inflation, an energy crisis and disrupted food supply.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva urged a “recalibration” of China’s tough “zero-Covid” approach aimed at isolating every case “exactly because of the impact it has on both people and on the economy.”

Georgieva made the comments in a wide-ranging interview Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, with The Associated Press in which she also cautioned it is too early for the US Federal Reserve to back off on its interest rate increases and held out hope that an energy crisis driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine will speed the push into renewables in Europe. She also called increasing hunger in developing countries “the world’s most significant solvable problem.”

In China, protests erupted over the weekend in several mainland cities and Hong Kong in the biggest show of public dissent in decades. Authorities have eased some controls but have shown no sign of backing off their larger strategy that has confined millions of people to their homes for months at a time.

“We see the importance of moving away from massive lockdowns, being very targeted in restrictions,” Georgieva said Tuesday in Berlin. “So that targeting allows containing the spread of Covid without significant economic costs.”

Georgieva also urged China to look at vaccination policies and focus on vaccinating the “most vulnerable people.”

A low rate of vaccinations among the elderly is a major reason Beijing has resorted to lockdowns, while the emergence of more contagious variants has put increasing stress on the effort to prevent any spread.

Lockdowns have slowed everything from travel to retail traffic to car sales in the world’s second-largest economy. Georgieva urged it “to adjust the overall approach to how China assesses supply chain functioning with an eye on the spillover impact it has on the rest of the world.”

The Washington-based IMF expected the Chinese economy to grow only 3.2 percent this year, below the global average for the year, a rare occurrence.

The Communist Party has taken steps in the direction Georgieva recommends, switching to isolating buildings or neighborhoods with infections instead of whole cities and making other changes it says are aimed at reducing the human and economic cost.

But a spike in infections since October has prompted local authorities who are facing pressure from above to impose quarantines and other restrictions that residents say are too extreme.

China, a founding IMF member, has a prestigious single seat on the organization’s 24-member executive board, unlike most countries that must share a seat. Its six percent voting share is behind only the United States and Japan. (AP)