China's latest COVID-19 outbreak spreads to 21 provinces, infecting 1,379
The latest COVID-19 outbreak in China had infected 1,379 people in 21 provincial-level regions as of Friday evening, and over 300 confirmed cases had been discharged from hospitals, Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a press conference on Saturday.
With the number of global COVID-19 cases surpassing 250 million, China is facing greater challenges in preventing inbound cases, said Mi.
And with the advent of winter and lower temperatures, there is an increasing risk of the prevalence of COVID-19 and other respiratory infectious diseases like influenza at the same time, he warned.
Overall situation stabilizing
China's overall COVID-19 situation is stabilizing, and the epidemic in many provinces has been effectively brought under control, Wu Liangyou, deputy director of the NHC's disease control and prevention bureau, said at the press briefing, adding that partial flare-ups in several provinces need to be contained.
As of Friday, over 2.37 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in China, with more than 1.07 billion people out of its 1.4 billion population fully inoculated, data from the NHC showed.
'Dynamic zero-COVID policy'
Mi said China will stick to a "dynamic zero-COVID" policy, which means early detection, rapid response, precise management and control, and effective treatment of new cases to ensure that no large-scale epidemic rebound caused by imported or locally transmitted cases occurs.
Over the past year or so, China has rapidly controlled dozens of sporadic and cluster infections and effectively reduced COVID-19-related deaths, with its economic performance among the top in the world, Liang Wannian, head of the expert team on COVID-19 response and disposal at the NHC, told Xinhua.
"It fully proves that our epidemic prevention and control measures are effective," Liang said, adding that the policy should not be relaxed for now.
COVID-19 is still ravaging the world and the virus is still mutating quickly, he said, noting that the fatality rate has not dropped significantly. Under such circumstances, China is prioritizing people's lives and health with its epidemic prevention and control measures, he noted.
Real-world experience has shown that many countries that prematurely relaxed measures saw COVID-19 rebounds and an increase in severe cases and deaths, Liang said.
China has not reached herd immunity with its vaccination drive, so an early lifting of restrictive measures will result in the country losing its hard-earned wins, he added.
The current prevention and control strategy may impact the daily lives of those infected and their close contacts in the short term, but in the long run, rapid control of the epidemic will allow economic and social life to quickly return to normal, Liang said.
How long China will continue with this strategy is up to multiple factors including global pandemic trends, mutations of the virus, the severity of the disease and vaccination rates, Liang said.
"The pandemic is evolving, so are the prevention and control strategies and measures," he said. "We will pay close attention to global pandemic trends, study the risk of the epidemic, accelerate the vaccination drive, and adjust the prevention and control strategies and measures in proper time."