BEIJING, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- China has announced a new set of measures to optimize its epidemic control, ranging from proposing home quarantine for mild and asymptomatic cases to reducing nucleic acid tests to make it easier for people to travel and enter public venues.
The latest adjustment is an active optimization of epidemic prevention and control, said Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel under the National Health Commission (NHC).
They are in line with the government's strategy to keep optimizing response as the dominant variant of the coronavirus mutates from Alpha to Delta and now to Omicron.
Over the past three years, China has issued nine editions of COVID-19 control protocols, together with the 20 measures announced in November 2022 and the latest 10 released on Wednesday.
The November measures included the measure to adjust the categories of COVID-19 risk areas from "high", "medium", and "low" to "high" and "low" to minimize personnel under quarantine or health monitoring. The circuit breaker mechanism for inbound flights was also canceled.
The latest 10 measures will make more efficient use of prevention and control resources, and better coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development, Liang said.
"We have coped with the uncertainties of the epidemic situation with a stable COVID-19 prevention and control strategy and a flexible string of prevention and control measures," said Wang Hesheng, deputy head of NHC and chief of the national administration of disease prevention and control.
Always putting people's life and health first, these control measures were proven to be science-based and effective.
TOUGH BUT SUCCESSFUL BATTLE
In 2020, it took China three months to secure a decisive victory against the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan and the rest part of Hubei Province, effectively preventing the epidemic from spreading to a larger part of the country.
With the outbreak of the Delta variant in more than 20 provinces in 2021, the country responded rapidly and successfully contained more than 30 regional outbreaks.
The outbreak of the Omicron variant in March 2022 saw the country adopt more targeted and quick response measures. The country managed to make the results of nucleic acid tests released within 24 hours after the tests were taken, while more localities took up a more efficient monitoring model that used antigen tests to screen the risky population and nucleic acid tests to identify the carriers.
Meanwhile, the country also accelerated the research and development of vaccines, test reagents, and medicines.
The latest official statistics showed that more than 90 percent of the Chinese population were fully vaccinated, the largest scale across the world.
While targeted response measures were in place, efforts have been made to ensure people's livelihood. A number of preferential policies were announced nationwide and locally to support enterprises in resuming business and ensure that people's basic life and medical needs were met.
The virus has weakened over the past three years while China's epidemic prevention capability has grown stronger.
Over the past three years, China has responded to more than 100 regional outbreaks and protected the life and health of more than 1.4 billion people when the COVID-19 virus had been the most deadly.
According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 641 million across the globe, with more than 6.62 million deaths.
China, however, has the lowest incidence and death toll of COVID-19 among major countries in the world.
Despite the gap in per capita medical resources and medical technology between China and developed countries, the country has seen its average life expectancy steadily rise, reaching 77.93 years in 2020 and 78.2 years in 2021.
"These have laid a solid foundation for our epidemic response and created a favorable condition for further efforts to optimize response measures," Wang said.
Now the most difficult period has passed. With the weakening pathogenicity of the Omicron virus, the popularization of vaccines, and the extensive epidemic prevention experience, new dynamics and tasks face China's COVID-19 control work.
The pandemic has yet ended and risks will remain, said Li Bin, deputy head of the NHC.
The health departments will closely follow the mutation of the virus and monitor the reports of serious cases and deaths as well as the allocation of medical resources in a bid to avoid the shortage of medical resources, Li said.
In the future, efforts will be made to conduct research while maintaining epidemic prevention measures, closely track the mutation of the virus, step up developing effective drugs and increase the stock of medicine, constantly enhance the capacity for medical treatment, improve epidemic prevention ability and further raise health awareness. ■