Chinese President Xi Jinping has said his country will “stick with” its zero-COVID strategy, state TV reported, as the world’s most populous nation battles its largest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.
The world’s second-largest economy has gone from reporting fewer than 100 daily infections just three weeks ago to more than 1,000 per day for over a week.
More than 2,400 cases were reported on Thursday, according to the National Health Commission.
Speaking at a meeting of China’s top leaders on Thursday, Xi said the country should “continue to put people and life at the forefront, stick with scientific accuracy and dynamic-zero, and curb the spread of the epidemic as soon as possible”, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Beijing must “raise the level of scientifically accurate prevention and control and continuously optimise disease control measures”, the report quoted Xi as saying.
He called to “strengthen technological key areas like vaccination, rapid testing and drug research” to make virus curbs more “targeted”, CCTV said.
Xi also urged tighter virus controls at ports of entry and stressed the need to “swiftly control local clustered outbreaks”.
Tens of millions of people are currently under stay-home orders across China to try and stamp out the latest outbreak.
China is fighting its biggest wave of locally transmitted COVID cases since it contained the initial outbreak centred on Wuhan in 2020.
Even as much of the world has relaxed or ended coronavirus restrictions, millions of people in northeastern China are under lockdown and authorities have imposed restrictions on business activities and cargo transport in major cities such as Shenzhen.
More than two dozen regions have reported infections in the past few weeks, despite a tiny caseload by global standards, putting pressure on China’s “dynamic-clearance” policy that aims to curb flare-ups quickly as they arise.
Racing to tamp down outbreaks in multiple cities, Chinese officials have also moved to free up hospital beds over fears the virus could put the health system under strain.
Northeast China’s Jilin province, which has reported thousands of cases over the past week, has built eight “makeshift hospitals” and two quarantine centres to stem the surge in infections.
State news outlets this week broadcast footage of dozens of giant cranes assembling temporary medical facilities in Jilin, which has only about 23,000 hospital beds for some 24 million residents.
Authorities also said people with mild cases could isolate at central quarantine facilities, having previously sent all patients with any symptoms to specialist hospitals.
In Shanghai, China’s biggest city and home to 25 million people, authorities have closed school campuses, locked down some residential compounds and launched a rigorous round of mass testing, according to state media.