Xi urges steps to ‘protect’ lives as China battles COVID-19 wave

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping urged officials on Monday (Dec 26) to take steps to protect lives in his first public remarks on COVID-19 since Beijing dramatically loosened hardline containment measures this month.

Having mostly cut itself off from the rest of the world during the pandemic, China is now experiencing the planet’s biggest surge in infections after abruptly lifting restrictions that torpedoed the economy.

Studies have estimated that about 1 million people could die over the next few months. Many in the population are now grappling with shortages of medicine, while emergency medical facilities are strained by an influx of undervaccinated elderly patients.

“At present, COVID-19 prevention and control in China are facing a new situation and new tasks,” Xi said in a directive, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

“We should launch the patriotic health campaign in a more targeted way … fortify a community line of defence for epidemic prevention and control, and effectively protect people’s lives, safety and health,” Xi said.

Hospitals and crematoriums across the country have been overflowing with COVID-19 patients and victims, while China’s National Health Commission on Sunday announced it would stop publishing daily nationwide infection and death statistics.

The decision to scrap the daily virus count comes amid concerns that the country’s blooming wave of infections is not being accurately reflected in official statistics.

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