BEIJING -- Quake victims will not have to pay medical expenses, the Chinese government has promised.
"Medical expenses shall not be inflicted on them, and the government has the responsibility to help them get better medical service," Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang said at a press conference on Thursday.
The government will "spare no effort" in dealing with the bodies of the victims and providing medical treatment for the injured, Gao said.
He noted that some Chinese are not covered in the country's medical insurance system, which still needs improvement.
Many people in the quake-hit areas have lost their relatives and families while many have suffered financial losses, he pointed out.
In face of this serious natural disaster in decades, the government has responded timely and adopted effective measures, Gao said, noting that it was rare in world disaster relief history.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake centered on Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province occurred on Monday afternoon and affected many parts of the country.
The death toll from the powerful earthquake stood at 19,500 as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday and is rising.