Chargé d'Affaires ad Interim Ma Taotao Expounds his Views on Issues Related to China's Optimization and Adjustment of COVID Response
2023-01-19 22:00

Recently, there are many misunderstandings and misinterpretations of China's adjustment of measures for COVID-19 Control and Prevention, and certain forces have taken this opportunity to hype up the issue and smear China. I would like to make a response to relevant hot issues as follows:

. Does China's adjustment of measures for COVID-19 response mean that the strict prevention and control policy implemented in the past three years is a failure?

Three years ago, the once-in-a-century pandemicbroke out, thisis a war between human beings and virus. Virus knows no borders and does not distinguish between races. The rapid spread of COVID-19, the wide range of infection and the difficulty of prevention and control are unprecedented. Faced with this closed-book exam about life and death, the whole world did not have a ready-made answer at that time. Based on Chinas national realities, the Chinese government puts people and their lives first, and made a tough decision that cut off the route of transmission in the shortest possible time and stopped the fast and global spreading of the virus effectively. All this was achieved at an enormous cost and with huge sacrifice. 

At the same time, China quickly identified the pathogen and shared the genetic sequence of the virus to help other countries and regions prepare for epidemic diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control. China has also regularly communicated with the WHO, relevant countries and regional organizations, and proactively notified the epidemic information in a timely manner. By taking the most resolute and thorough measures, the Chinese government not only saved the lives of the Chinese people, but also bought precious time for the world to prepare for the research and development and application of vaccines, drugs, and medical resources. The efforts of the Chinese government and the tenacity of the Chinese people have effectively dealt with the impact of the five waves of the global epidemic and made great achievements in the fight against COVID-19, which should not be ignored.

With the continuous mutation and weakening of COVID-19, and the improving of China's medical treatment and vaccination capabilities, China has adjusted and optimized prevention and control measures according to the time and situation. On the basis of adhering to scientific prevention and control and precise policy implementation, the focus of our work has shifted from infection prevention and control to health care and severe disease prevention, minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on the production and life of the people and economic and social development.

What I want to emphasize is that even under the strict prevention and control policies, China's economy has maintained an average growth rate of about 4.5% in the past three years, which is significantly higher than the world average. As the epidemic situation in China continues to improve and the exchange of Chinese and foreign personnel becomes more convenient, the potential and vitality of China's economy will be further released, which will strongly enhance the recovery and growth of the world economy after the pandemic.

With the change of situation, the policies should keep pace with the times, which is nothing more than normal. Without the previous strict policies, there would be no relatively favorable conditions for gradual mitigation of measures today. We should not negate all the efforts and sacrifices made before just because the conditions are allowed to ease the measures today.

. Is the epidemic situation in China out of control?

The Omicron variant, although less virulent, is more contagious. As China optimizes and adjusts prevention and control measures, the surge in the number of infection cases is expected. However, some Western media, which already had an ideological prejudice against China, were extremely excited and began to hype up the so-called "humanitarian tragedy" and "out of control". In fact, the surge in the number of cases also reflects the success of China's previous prevention and control measures. In the three years after the outbreak, the proportion of infected people in China's total population was extremely low, which made us far from reaching "herd immunity", and almost the entire population of the country was susceptible. China is a developing country with a population of more than 1.4 billion. The per capita medical resources are far less than those of developed countries. The rapid increase in the number of cases in a short period of time will inevitably put pressure on the medical system and resources. Some people will be dissatisfied or hope that the government can do better. This is normal, but some people ignore the facts and the mainstream, deliberately hype up individual cases, magnify dissatisfaction, and create the illusion of "out of control" for seeking attention.

Gradual mitigation does not mean laissez-faire, let alone letting go of the government. China is currently accelerating the promotion of vaccinations for the elderly, increasing the production capacity and supply of medicines, mobilizing all resources to protect key populations, and optimizing the medical treatment process. Now, some cities such as Beijing have passed the epidemicpeak and sped up the resumption of work and production. The current epidemic situation in China is generally predictable and controllable.

When shifting gear in COVID policy, countries would go through a period of adaptation and difficulty.However it seems that only China has received special "care" again "without any suspense". In the past three years, when China was implementing strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some people had been clamoring that China's prevention and control policy is "inhuman" and "violating human rights" while the extremely low infection rate and death rate in China barely rated a mention. Three years later, when China adjusted and optimized its prevention and control policies, they were keen to hype up "out of control" and "tragedy", and even falsely claimed that China's mitigation of control would "endanger" the world, vividly interpreting to people all over the world what "flip-flop" means.

. Has the Chinese vaccine been proven ineffective?

Some people have always been willing to belittle the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines. After China adjusted its prevention and control policies, some cities experienced a peak of infections. They believe that they have seized the "key evidence" and directly claimed that Chinese vaccines are ineffective.

China's inactivated vaccine against COVID-19 is different from the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine produced by Pfizer and Moderna in the West, but it can also prevent COVID-19 infection. The Journal "The LancetInfectious Diseases" once published a scientific report confirming that two doses of the Sinovac vaccine provided 89% to 94% protection. At present, China is the only country with COVID vaccines developed via multiple technical routes. To date, 13 vaccines covering four technical routes have been approved for use in China. Among them, the inactivation technology adopted by China's mainstream vaccines is a mature and stable technology recognized globally.

China has vaccinated more than 3.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 92.9% of the Chinese population has been fully vaccinated, with more than 90% of people aged above 60 covered by vaccination. It is the reliability and effectiveness of Chinese vaccines that have prevented millions of deaths. Of course, no matter what kind of vaccinesare vaccinated, it is impossible to become a 100% "insulator" of COVID-19. It is common to see people who have been vaccinated with Western vaccines are infected, and those who have been infected still have the risk of reinfection. Claiming that Chinese vaccines are ineffective is a typical selective narrative, that is, first to have opinions and then to find evidence. This is a contempt for science and an act of groundless smearing.

. Is China's epidemic data opaque?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, in an open, transparent, and responsible manner and in accordance with the law, China gave timely notification to the international community of the epidemic information, and shared without reserve its experience in containing the spread of the virus and treating the infected. China has great empathy with victims all over the world, and has done all it can to provide humanitarian aid in support of the international community’s endeavors to stem the pandemic.

Over the past three years, China has maintained close communication with the WHO and relevant countries and regions. Among them, China has carried out more than 60 technical exchanges with WHO. In the past month or so, China has carried out 5 related technical exchanges with WHO. At the same time, China has jointly held more than 300 epidemic prevention and control technical exchange activities with more than 180 countries and regions around the world and more than 10 international organizations, and sent 37 batches of anti-epidemic expert teams to 34 countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. More than 900 foreign aid medical training sessions have been held in more than 50 countries, and more than 20,000 people have been trained.

Of course, after China adjusts its epidemic prevention measures, it no longer carries out nucleic acid testing for all the people, and the accuracy of the data will be affected to a certain extent. During the pandemic and rapid transmission period, it is also difficult to accurately determine the fatality rate. This is the same for all countries, not a special case for China. China has no reason to conceal data. We are always confident in our anti-epidemic system, capabilities and achievements. As a responsible big country,China will continue to monitor the mutated strain of COVID-19, share the latest information on the international platform, and provide technical support for global epidemic prevention and control.

. Some countries have adopted restrictions on the entry of Chinese tourists. Is China's reaction to that excessive?

China has repeatedly stressed that for all countries, COVID response measures need to be science-based and proportionate. They should not target at specific countries,there should not be discriminatory measures, and still less should measures be used for political manipulation. The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention has publicly stated that there is no reason for Europe to impose mandatory COVID-19 screenings on Chinese tourists. Recently, public health experts from many countries, including experts from the WHO, have pointed out that the variant of COVID-19 currently circulating in China has been circulating around the world before, and new strains may appear anywhere. There is no indication that a more dangerous virus has emerged in China. It is no need for special entry restrictions for Chinese travelers.

At present, the vast majority of countries in the world have not taken discriminatory measures against China. Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, Cambodia, the United Arab Emirates and many other countries welcome Chinese tourists with open arms. However, a small number of countries insist on adopting discriminatory entry restrictions on passengers from China in disregard of scientific evidence and the actual situation of the epidemic situation in their own countries. Some excessive measures are even more unacceptable. It is completely reasonable and fair for China to take reciprocal measures based on the actual situation to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.

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