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Tuesday, Feb 07, 2023

China to maintain zero-COVID policy

China to maintain zero-COVID policy

Measures should be fine-tuned to better help vulnerable people, officials say.
China will stay the course on coranavirus restrictions and stick to its zero-COVID policy, health officials said on Saturday amid fresh outbreaks of the virus in the country.

In a briefing, Hu Xiang from the National Health Commission’s disease prevention and control bureau, said that Beijing's rigorous containment measures, including lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing, were "completely correct" and "the most economical and effective," according to a report by Reuters news agency. Health officials said that, however, the measures should be fine-tuned and tweaked to better help vulnerable people, according to reports.

The statement will put a damper on expectations that China might follow most Asian countries in easing its COVID policies, amid recent reports by Bloomberg that Beijing is making preparations to scrap penalties for airlines bringing COVID cases into the country.

Asked whether a policy change is to be expected in the near term, Hu said that China would "adhere to the principle of putting people and lives first, and the broader strategy of preventing imports from outside and internal rebounds."

Tuo Jia, a National Health Commission official, acknowledged that there have been complaints in some cities about the strict enforcement of the zero-COVID policy and said that local authorities need to balance epidemic prevention with economic development, the Associated Press reported.

“We must conduct prevention and control resolutely, decisively, scientifically and accurately, and resolutely clean up and stop all forms of simplification, a one-size-fits-all approach and excessive local measures,” she said, according to the AP report.

Scattered outbreaks across the country continue to prompt travel restrictions and lockdowns. China on Saturday said it identified 3,500 new cases on Friday, including about 3,000 who tested positive despite not having any COVID-19 symptoms, the AP reported.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced during a one-day visit to Beijing on Friday that the Chinese government would soon offer the BioNTech/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to expats in China. Scholz was accompanied by a group of business leaders from Germany, including BioNTech chief Uğur Şahin.

Scholz agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping and outgoing Prime Minister Li Keqiang that the countries will work more closely in the fight against the coronavirus, the German leader said. “This also includes an approval of the BioNTech vaccine for expats in China,” Scholz said.
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