COVID-19 epidemic in China basically over despite sporadic cases: top medical expert
Published: Feb 23, 2023 04:22 PM
Liang Wannian, a member of the WHO-China joint study team, speaks at the WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 9, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

Liang Wannian, a member of the WHO-China joint study team, speaks at the WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 9, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

The COVID-19 epidemic in China can be considered basically over despite sporadic cases, Liang Wannian, head of China's COVID-19 response experts' team, said at a press conference on Thursday, adding that China has achieved a major victory in the prevention and control of the coronavirus.

The "major victory" means that the country has weathered the test of the latest round of the epidemic and built up a relatively good immunity barrier among the population. The epidemic has not completely disappeared, as sporadic and localized infections still exist, Liang noted.

China has achieved a major and decisive victory in its COVID-19 prevention and control since November 2022, and created a miracle of the most populous country in the history of human civilization successfully walking out of the epidemic. 

The country's policy adjustment and optimization helped achieve a stable transition and keep the overall death rate at the lowest level worldwide, Chinese top leadership said on February 16.

Also on the same day, a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, pointed out that China's epidemic prevention procedure has been extraordinary over the past three years. 

The country optimized and adjusted epidemic prevention and control measures in accordance with the circumstances, effectively coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development, said the meeting.

The concept of a pandemic is an indicator of the intensity of an infectious disease, the strongest of which is a pandemic, when there is cross-border or continental spread, Liang said.

He said that in March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 a pandemic. The disease was declared a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January 2021 and remains so to this day.

From a global perspective, the status of the pandemic still exists, and so does the threat of the disease, the expert explained, adding that China's COVID-19 prevention and control achieved a major victory that made it a model for dealing with the pandemic.

Explaining whether the country is out of the pandemic, Liang said the judgment depends on a number of indicators, including the infection rate, the level of immunity of the population, the mutation of the pathogen and the reception capability of medical institutions. 

The last indicator is the overall prevention and control capacity of the epidemic, that is, whether the means and ability to control the disease are basically in place.

The country's optimized COVID-19 management since November 2022 has realized a smooth transition of the anti-epidemic work, with more than 200 million people receiving treatment, 800,000 severe cases being effectively treated, and the death rate remaining at the lowest level in the world.

Information released by the China CDC on February 15 said that the number of in-hospital deaths dropped to nine on February 13, decreasing 99.8 percent from the peak. Starting on December 9, 2022, the number of reported positive cases increased and then kept declining. It reached a peak of 6.94 million on December 22 and dropped to 8,847 on February 13.

Chinese health officials and experts said recently that the nationwide COVID-19 situation has generally become stable. Although a new wave of mass infections is unlikely to occur in the coming months, schools and rural areas will be the next priority for epidemic control.

Moreover, seven cases of XBB.1.5 have been reported in China since the implementation of the class B COVID management on January 8. Although the neutralizing antibodies retained in the population provide immune protection in the short term and are less likely to cause a new pandemic in the near future, the harm of the virus remains, experts noted.

The meeting held by the CPC Central Committee pointed out that although the overall epidemic prevention and control situation has been improving, given that the global pandemic is still ongoing, all places and departments need to summarize their three years of experience and implement epidemic control in the new phase in order to further consolidate the hard-won result.

The meeting also called for strengthening capacity building for epidemic monitoring and regular early warnings, improving the epidemic monitoring system and information reporting system, and giving prompt and accurate early warnings while planning the next stage of work in boosting the vaccination rate among the elderly.

Global Times