China delivers acclaimed performance in fighting once-in-a-century pandemic
* In the face of the sudden COVID-19 pandemic, China's voice is loud and clear: "Putting the people and human life above all else," and "We will stop at nothing to protect our people's lives and health."
* The successful COVID-19 response in the last three years has bought precious time for China's vaccine and drug development and application, as well as its medical resource preparation, and China's active adjustment of response strategy in light of the evolving pandemic situation is science-based, timely and necessary.
* While working hand in hand with the world to combat COVID-19, China has also provided strong momentum for global economic recovery through its opening up and cooperation efforts.
BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Wuhan Railway Station in central China's Hubei Province is bustling with passengers amid the Spring Festival holiday travel rush.
"I experienced passenger flow peaks at the station when there were more than 150,000 passengers a day, as well as days when there were few visitors," said Zhang Limin, who has served 10-plus years as chief on duty of the station and is more than excited to see the return of crowds.
Three years into the fight against COVID-19, China is resuming normal order in terms of both work and life. In the face of the worst pandemic in a century, China has placed the health and safety of the people above all else, continuously optimized and adjusted COVID-19 response measures according to the circumstances, and done its best to extend a helping hand to other virus-hit countries, delivering an acclaimed performance.
A train crew member decorates a bullet train car at Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Jan. 7, 2023. (Xinhua/Wu Zhizun)
PUTTING PEOPLE, LIVES FIRST
In the face of the sudden COVID-19 pandemic, different countries made varying choices regarding their response strategies.
China's voice is loud and clear: "Putting the people and human life above all else," and "We will stop at nothing to protect our people's lives and health."
On Jan. 23, 2020, central China's hub city of Wuhan suspended all outbound trains and flights to slow down virus transmission.
Gyms and exhibition centers were converted into temporary wards. 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.
In the face of a fierce onslaught from the pandemic, China provided effective protection for the safety and health of its over 1.4 billion people.
"All prevention and control measures taken by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee against the novel coronavirus are to prevent more people from being infected and save more patients' lives," said President Xi Jinping during an inspection tour in Wuhan on March 10, 2020.
Three years on, China has effectively responded to five waves of outbreaks. When the global Human Development Index dropped for two years straight, China went up six places on this index.
Over 90 percent of China's population has been fully vaccinated. With over 2,600 community-level hospitals, nearly 600,000 village clinics, and nearly a million primary-level healthcare institutions, China has further strengthened the line of defense for its people's health.
Pharmacists prepare Chinese herbal medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital of Sanya City in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province, Aug. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)
ADJUSTING RESPONSE MEASURES PER CIRCUMSTANCES
China withstood waves of outbreaks with low mortality when the virus was rampant. China took the initiative to adjust its COVID-19 response measures when the ability of the virus to harm people's health and safety and its impact on the economy and society weakened.
The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee laid out 20 measures to further improve China's COVID-19 response during a meeting on Nov. 10, 2022.
In December 2022, China announced 10 new measures to lift numerous COVID-19 restrictions. On Jan. 8, 2023, it shifted the management of COVID-19 by adopting measures designed for combating Class B infectious diseases instead of Class A. China has shifted the focus of its COVID-19 response from infection prevention to medical treatment.
This photo taken on Dec. 27, 2022 shows a press conference held by the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism. On Dec. 26, China renamed novel coronavirus pneumonia as novel coronavirus infection and decided to downgrade its level of COVID-19 management from the current Class A to a less strict Class B, starting from Jan. 8, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)
Over the past three years, China has continuously adjusted its COVID prevention and control measures in light of new developments in the pandemic situation.
In China, a country with a population of more than 1.4 billion, different people have different demands. The building of broad consensus and conducting science-based decision-making are key steps in the adjustment of COVID-19 response strategies.
Science plays a fundamental role in the fight against COVID-19.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, repeatedly stressed that defeating COVID-19 requires scientific and technological support, calling for a comprehensive use of multidisciplinary forces to step up research and to achieve scientific breakthroughs and workable research results, as soon as possible.
China identified the pathogen within eight days, and completed its nucleic acid testing kit optimization in 16 days. China conducted parallel vaccine research through five technical approaches. So far, 13 COVID-19 vaccines, developed via different tech routes, have gotten conditional market approval or have been greenlighted for emergency use in China.
A staff member checks tags on vials of inactivated COVID-19 vaccine at a packing line of Sinovac Life Sciences Co., Ltd. in Beijing, capital of China, on Dec. 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)
China has also accelerated multiple-path drug research and development and selection, fully leveraged the strength of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and included multiple drugs or therapies in COVID-19 treatment guidelines. Booster vaccination efforts were also strengthened.
Regarding China's growing capacity for COVID-19 treatment, China had 216,000 intensive care beds and 135,000 convertible ones as of the end of 2022.
"The successful COVID-19 response in the last three years has bought precious time for China's vaccine and drug development and application, as well as its medical resource preparation, and China's active adjustment of response strategy in light of the evolving pandemic situation is science-based, timely and necessary," noted an official with the State Council inter-agency task force for COVID-19 response.
COORDINATING COVID RESPONSE AND DEVELOPMENT
In 2022, China's economy grew 3 percent year on year to a record high of more than 120 trillion yuan (about 17.7 trillion U.S. dollars), ensuring overall economic and social development, despite factors that had a greater impact than expected.
The country is presenting even stronger vitality after entering a new phase of the COVID response. But along the way, it has always been challenging to coordinate the pandemic response and development, which requires wisdom and governance capacity.
Over the past three years, the CPC Central Committee, with Xi at the core, has led the initiative of effectively coordinating the COVID response with economic and social development. Under the CPC leadership, China has protected the health and safety of the people, eradicated absolute poverty as scheduled, finished building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and got the 14th Five-Year Plan off to a good start.
When Qirun, a tyre-manufacturing company in east China's Shandong Province, faced pressure on its capital chain a few months ago, it successfully received VAT credit refunds of more than 9 million yuan from the government.
"Without that timely refund, we probably would not have made it through," said an executive of the company.
The CPC Central Committee has made explicit requirements for containing COVID-19 while stabilizing the economy and keeping development secure.
China introduced targeted policies for different regions and sectors regarding the resumption of regular operation, stabilized industrial and supply chains, and worked to ensure the supply of daily necessities and medical materials, as well as stability in jobs, and food and energy security.
Thanks to its effective coordination in the past three years, China maintained an average annual growth rate of about 4.5 percent, significantly higher than the world average.
While traditional industries were hit by COVID-19, new industries and business forms such as intelligent manufacturing, health care, and online shopping developed rapidly.
A series of notable sci-tech achievements also demonstrated potential for development. For example, China's space station was fully completed, the country manufactured and delivered its first C919 aircraft, and the Baihetan hydropower station went into full operation.
This photo taken on Dec. 9, 2022 shows the delivery ceremony of the first C919 large passenger aircraft in Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua/Ding Ting)
CHINA IS NOT ALONE IN FIGHTING COVID
COVID-19 is the most severe pandemic the world has experienced in a century and poses grave challenges to all humanity.
As early as the beginning of the outbreak in China, Xi proposed building a global community of health for all and clarified China's stance on jointly fighting the pandemic with other members of the international community.
In this spirit, China did all it could, even when the pandemic was still lingering in the country, to help other countries and regions combat the virus.
Vaccination is vital in coping with the pandemic. At the virtual opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly in May 2020, China pledged to make Chinese vaccines a global public good, contributing to the accessibility and affordability of vaccines against COVID-19 in developing countries.
So far, China has supplied more than 2.2 billion COVID vaccine doses to over 120 countries and international organizations. It has also offered copious anti-pandemic materials to 153 countries and 15 international organizations, and dispatched 38 teams of medical experts to 34 countries in need.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has acted in an open, transparent, and responsible manner in the global fight against the virus. It actively reported the outbreak to the World Health Organization (WHO), relevant countries, and regional organizations, released the genome sequence of the virus to the world as early as possible, invited WHO experts to China and responded to concerns from home and abroad through multiple channels.
The number of severe inpatient cases peaked on Jan. 5, 2023, and has since declined with some fluctuations. Latest statistics show that nearly 60,000 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported in China's medical institutions over the past month or so, with an age of 80.3 years at death on average.
While working hand in hand with the world to combat COVID-19, China has also provided strong momentum for global economic recovery through its opening up and cooperation efforts.
A staff member transfers China-donated COVID-19 vaccines at Yangon International Airport in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec. 22, 2021. (Xinhua/U Aung)
UNITY OF 1.4 BILLION PEOPLE
China's fight against COVID-19 over the last three years offers eloquent proof that the CPC is the pillar the Chinese people can lean on in times of difficulty.
In the face of a raging pandemic unseen in a century, more than 90 million CPC members and 4 million primary-level Party organizations have been acting swiftly on the orders of the CPC Central Committee, braving the pandemic to safeguard people's health and lives.
It was the strength of socialism with Chinese characteristics in mobilizing resources from various sectors for one shared goal, that enabled one miracle after another during the toughest times when Wuhan was hard hit by the virus back in early 2020.
Medical and daily supplies were channeled endlessly to Hubei Province from across the country.
Factories went to all lengths to locate melt-blown non-woven fabric and mask machines when medical facial masks were in short supply across the country. Running at full steam, they successfully pumped up the daily production capacity from 8 million to more than 100 million.
With a blueprint drawn within 24 hours, 1,000 machines operating simultaneously, and thousands of constructors working day and night, the Huoshenshan hospital, dedicated to COVID patients with a capacity of 1,000 beds, was erected in merely ten days.
This aerial photo taken on Feb. 2, 2020 shows a view of the Huoshenshan hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province. (Xinhua/Cheng Min)
The 1.4 billion Chinese people demonstrated great unity in the face of a dangerous virus as they closed ranks with the single purpose of stemming the spread of the virus.
More than 4 million community workers held firm at their posts in 650,000 urban and rural communities nationwide. Millions of volunteers joined the ranks to fight the virus on the front line.
Thanks to the heroic devotion of the Chinese people and their brave actions, China overcame unprecedented challenges and hardships. Although the pandemic is yet to end, regular life is returning.
"We have now entered a new phase of COVID-19 response," Xi noted when extending festive greetings to all the Chinese people ahead of the Spring Festival.
"Tough challenges remain, but the light of hope is right in front of us. Perseverance means victory," he said on Wednesday.
(Video editors: Zhang Zhihuan, Zhu Jianhui, Wang Houyuan, Peng Ying, Liu Xiaorui)