Xinhua Commentary: Lives protected to utmost in China's three-year battle against COVID-19
China has shifted the focus of its COVID-19 response strategy from infection control to case treatment with the objective of preventing severe cases.
The shift was made in accordance with the weakened pathogenicity of the virus. It does not run counter to the hard truth that China is one of the world's best achievers in terms of saving lives from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past three years, China has withstood waves of the pandemic and successfully dealt with over 100 cluster outbreaks. In a country with over 1.4 billion people, the COVID-19 death toll was some 5,000, according to health authorities.
Globally, the pandemic has caused 6.6 million deaths. In 2021, millions of lives were lost as governments of many countries swayed between lockdowns and reopenings.
One thing has become crystal clear now: China has honored what it has always said it would do -- putting the people and their lives above all else.
Back in early 2020, faced with the sudden COVID-19 outbreak, China mobilized resources across the country, launching an unprecedented operation to save lives in the hardest-hit city of Wuhan, Hubei Province.
From newborns to centenarians, no COVID-19 patients had ever been given up on. More than 3,600 patients aged above 80 were treated and recovered.
The initial success to rein in the virus helped China gain the initiative in the following stage of routine COVID-19 prevention and control, in which the country raced against time to vaccinate its people and develop rapid test kits and medication.
Over the past three years, China has developed effective COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment expertise and medicines, and kept improving its capacities in terms of medical treatment, pathogen detection and epidemiological investigation.
To date, more than 90 percent of its population have been vaccinated. This has helped China ride out waves of epidemic outbreaks brought about by coronavirus variants from Alpha to Delta.
The routine COVID-19 response emphasized the role of science and the importance of precision. China closely followed the development of the pandemic outside its border, assessed the efficacy of its response measures, and made continuous adjustments aimed at optimizing them.
With the virus becoming less lethal, and considering the ever-growing domestic vaccination rate, and the accumulation of experience in fighting COVID-19, China has recently further optimized its anti-virus approach to allow home quarantine for asymptomatic and mild cases and cut mass nucleic acid testing, among others.
But the government has stressed even more efforts on health monitoring and services for the elderly. It has accelerated efforts to set up more fever clinics and emphasized administering the second dose of booster shots to the vulnerable.
These policy steps, no doubt, have been based on in-depth research and specifically targeted the features of virus mutations.
But more importantly, they have all been centered on the people, with an eye to better safeguard the normal order of work and life for the people and better protect the elderly, the children and other key groups of the population.
China has managed to keep its COVID-19 severe cases and death rates among the lowest in the world. The average life expectancy of the Chinese people kept rising amid the pandemic, from 77.93 years in 2020 to 78.2 years in 2021.
That said, it is worth noting that China never considers anti-epidemic efforts and economic growth as an either-or choice. Rather, it stresses the importance of coordinating the two in a highly efficient way.
After all, economic development can help improve people's lives.
In 2020, China was the first major economy across the globe that registered growth. The average annual growth rate for 2020 and 2021 reached 5.1 percent. The country has also successfully eradicated absolute poverty, a hard-won feat considering the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
After three years, the virus is weaker but we have grown stronger. The country now has more resources, better conditions and more confidence in triumphing over COVID-19.