BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Three years into the fight against COVID-19, China declared a major and decisive victory in its response to the pandemic.
How did a highly populous nation successfully pull through the pandemic and create a miracle in human history?
Over the past three years, China has been adjusting its COVID prevention and control measures in light of new developments to protect its people's health and safety.
A walk down memory lane serves as a reminder that scientific decision-making plays a fundamental role in the fight against COVID-19, and only science-based approaches can deliver an acclaimed performance in the face of the pandemic unseen in a century.
During the crucial early days of the outbreak, the central authorities immediately sent an expert team to Wuhan, hit hard by the COVID-19.
Scientific findings and professional suggestions were quickly translated into concrete actions.
On Jan. 12, 2020, China shared the genome sequence of the virus at the earliest opportunity, making significant contributions to vaccine and drug research and development worldwide.
On Jan. 23, 2020, Wuhan suspended all outbound trains and flights to slow down virus transmission.
Stadiums and exhibition centers were converted into makeshift hospitals. Tens of thousands of medical workers rushed to the front line and raced against time to improve diagnosis and treatment of the previously unknown disease.
"When the pandemic emerged in Wuhan, the response from the Chinese authorities was quite good," Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva, told Xinhua in a video interview.
"The Chinese government did apply very strict and effective measures at that time to tackle the pandemic and to avoid its spread all over the country."
CONTAINING SPORADIC OUTBREAKS
China successfully prevented the virus from spreading in Wuhan as the city reported no new confirmed cases in May 2020. Before the vaccines were available, China formulated new approaches to small-scale clusters to make COVID-19 a controllable disease.
China's measures echoed the methods repeatedly stressed by the World Health Organization. The most effective way to combat an infectious disease, including COVID-19, is testing people who may be infected, tracing their contacts, and isolating or quarantining those who are positive or exposed.
A series of strict prevention and control measures required enormous political courage and vision. Widespread public adherence made a difference in curbing sporadic outbreaks swiftly.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), China withstood 11 rounds of small-scale outbreaks caused by the Delta variant, which causes more severe cases than other variants.
In 2021, a study by Oxford University showed that due to COVID-19, 27 of 29 countries spanning most of Europe, the United States, and Chile all saw reductions in life expectancy in 2020, the biggest decrease since World War II.
In China, the average life expectancy increased from 77.93 years in 2020 to 78.2 in 2021.
China adopted the "dynamic zero-COVID" strategy in August 2021. It was a transitional strategy used when the population immunity barrier was not yet established in the face of the continued risk of foreign importation and high transmission of variants.
In other words, China took precise prevention and control measures to quickly find, control, and cure infected people within a specific geographic region to avoid affecting social and economic development in other regions, so as to achieve the maximum effect at the lowest cost, said the China CDC.
China's average annual economic growth rate over the past three years was approximately 4.5 percent, higher than the global average and making significant contributions to global economic growth.
For a country with a population of more than 1.4 billion, China followed a vaccination strategy different from many other countries. Vaccines were administered first to key groups and high-risk groups, due to limited supplies at that early stage of the fight against COVID-19.
As the production capacity picked up, China implemented the world's most extensive vaccination campaign in terms of scale, and managed to build a relatively strong immunity barrier among its citizens.
Currently, more than 90 percent of the Chinese population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and over 86 percent of people aged 60 or above are fully vaccinated.
The country is also continuously improving its medical treatment capacity. According to the National Health Commission, the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in China had reached 216,000, and 135,000 hospital beds could be converted to intensive care, by the end of 2022.
OPTIMIZATION IN NEW STAGE
During the three years after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China kept its severe COVID-19 cases and death rates among the lowest in the world, while treatment, testing, and vaccine production capacities continued growing.
The relatively "mild" omicron variant, a high vaccination rate, and the accumulation of experience allowed China's epidemic prevention and control policy to enter a new stage in late 2022.
China made an array of adjustments to its COVID-19 policies, including 20 measures last November and 10 more measures in December, while also changing the Chinese term for COVID-19 from "novel coronavirus pneumonia" to "novel coronavirus infection." The adjusted policies confirmed a consistent effort to effectively balance epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development needs.
With life and work returning to normal at an accelerated pace, China remains vigilant and continues improving its epidemic monitoring and information reporting system, so that timely and accurate early warnings can be issued and necessary prevention and control measures taken immediately.
The country is also increasing the vaccination rate among its elderly. Local governments across the country are required to provide "express channels" or arrange vaccination vehicles for the elderly, and to provide them with door-to-door services when needed to facilitate vaccination. ■