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Senior expert: Timing of COVID downgrade 'appropriate'

By LI HONGYANG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-09 08:45
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Inbound travelers go through the immigration check upon arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, Jan 8, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

The timing of the decision to downgrade COVID-19 management to Class B was appropriate and met scientific standards, a top expert said in response to concerns that winter was not a good moment, especially with Spring Festival approaching.

Starting Sunday, China downgraded COVID-19 management measures from Class A to B, according to the National Health Commission.

Liang Wannian, head of the commission's COVID-19 response expert panel, told China Central Television on Sunday that although the current subtype of the Omicron variant spreads more easily, it is less likely to result in severe illness.

Liang was quoted as saying that most people in China have immunity through vaccinations and the country is in a good position, with more than 90 percent of its population inoculated.

He added that the adjustment does not mean the removal of prevention and control measures including the need to report cases, or provide treatment and necessary intervention measures for public health purposes. Rather, it means that health services will be enhanced.

"We will prioritize the treatment of those with severe symptoms and strengthen the protection of vulnerable groups such as the elderly. Vaccination rates need to increase and medical capacity in rural areas has to be boosted," he said.

Liang told CCTV that China did not make the changes passively.

"Over the three years of fighting the epidemic, we have been doing in-depth research on the virus and preparing by bolstering capabilities before downgrading," he said.

For example, emergency containment was the most important strategy adopted during the onset of the epidemic between January and April 2020.

After May 2020, China normalized epidemic prevention and control measures and continued to adjust measures for the public good and health.

"For example, when determining different areas at risk, at first we divided by province, then by prefecture or by city, and finally, we corrected that to neighborhoods. We had continued to adjust measures based on the situation and immunity," he said, adding that the national epidemic prevention and control measures were successful, but the situation remains critical and people should hold on until everything returns to normal.


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