China’s top official in charge of the coronavirus response told health officials on Wednesday that the country faces a “new phase and new mission” in controlling the pandemic, state media Xinhua reported – a possible sign that Beijing is adjusting to a situation that has been sparking for days. Nationwide protests against the “Zero COVID-19” strategy.
“With the less virulence of the Omicron variant, higher vaccination rates, and accumulation of experience in epidemic control and prevention, China’s pandemic containment efforts are facing a new stage and mission,” Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said on Wednesday, according to Xinhua. ”
Her remarks made no reference to “zero coronavirus,” according to Xinhua, and came just a day after China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said it was making changes to current pandemic measures and that local governments should “respond to and address reasonable demands.” “Respond to the masses in a timely manner.”
In a meeting with the National Health Commission on Wednesday, Sun also said that a “people-oriented” approach should be taken, and that China should strengthen “diagnosis, testing, treatment and isolation” measures and continue to increase vaccination rates — especially among the elderly rates – and strengthen drug and medical resources.
After protesters clashed with police in the southern metropolis on Tuesday night, officials in Guangzhou softened their language after saying they were gradually easing Covid-19 containment measures.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Zhang Yi, a spokesman for the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission, said the city had adjusted the risk levels and pandemic containment measures in all 11 districts to varying degrees.
The blockade in four districts of Liwan, Baiyun, Tianhe and Haizhu has been lifted, while the blockade in areas designated as high-risk areas remains in place.
Zhang said Guangzhou would stop sending all close contacts of Covid-19 patients to central quarantine facilities and allow some people to isolate at home.
The city will also no longer initiate mass Covid-19 testing region-wide. “All districts need scientific testing,” Zhang added.
On Tuesday, Guangzhou reported 6,995 new local cases, Zhang said. China reported 37,612 new local cases across the country on Tuesday, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday.
China has moved swiftly over the past few days to suppress demonstrations that have erupted across the country against the government’s zero-coronavirus policy, deploying police forces at key protest sites and ramping up online censorship.
Last Thursday, protests were sparked by a deadly fire in Urumqi, the capital of the western region of Xinjiang. A fire that killed at least 10 people and injured nine others in an apartment building sparked public outrage after video of the incident appeared to show lockdown measures delayed firefighters from reaching victims.
Public protests are rare in China, where the Communist Party has tightened its grip on every aspect of life, launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, wiped out much of civil society and created a high-tech surveillance state.