On the new year’s eve, Chinese President XI Jinping, in his 2023 New Year Address, extended greetings to all nationals, as well as friends and people in the world, while claiming that, since COVID-19 struck, China has prevailed over unprecedented difficulties and challenges. China has entered a new phase of COVID response, where tough challenges remain. Everyone is holding on with great fortitude, and the light of hope is right in front of us.
After three years of fighting the pandemic, the whole world is much more convinced that the virus is the common enemy of all human beings. Till now, the coronavirus is still lingering over the world, with far-reaching social, economic and political consequences in different countries, and also with its sub-variants, such as Omicron, prevalent in many countries, including China.
From the very beginning of its response against the pandemic, China has taken responsible policies on a science-based and targeted approach, by putting people and their lives above all else, and by adapting measures dynamically and proactively. It has been proved and widely recognised that China’s COVID response policies over the past three years have realised the goal of achieving the best results at the least cost.
In the past three years, China has provided the greatest extent of possible protection to the people. China has made the best effort to protect the life and health of its 1.4 billion people and poured all resources into treating every patient, no matter if it is its own nationals or foreigners living in the country. China has effectively responded to five global waves of COVID-19 and avoided widespread infections with the original strain and the Delta variant, which are relatively more pathogenic than the currently spreading variants. Globally, China has had the lowest rates of infection and mortality. Despite the pandemic, the average life expectancy in China rose from 77.93 years in 2020 to 78.2 years in 2021.
In the past three years, China has witnessed the stability of its economy and also its supply chain to the world. One of the key focuses of China’s COVID policy is to minimise the impact of the pandemic on economic and social development. With the joint efforts of the whole country, China’s economy has managed to consolidate its resilience and maintain sound fundamentals, making it a reliable driving force of global economic growth. The country’s GDP expanded at an average annual rate of 4.6% from the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2022, which is well above the world average, according to data released by the OECD. Besides, China has also led the world in terms of trade volume, goods production and energy production, and kept its inflation rate at a relatively low level. Chinese people’s basic livelihood was guaranteed during the pandemic. In 2022, despite a global food crisis, China secured a bumper harvest for the 19th year in a row.
In the past three years, China has witnessed large-scale vaccination internally. China’s efficient response policies have bought precious time for researching and developing vaccines and medicine and raising the vaccination rate of the whole population. As of last December, more than 3.46 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered on the Chinese mainland, with over 90% of the population fully vaccinated. However, due to the fact that most of the vaccination was done a year ago, it is hard for a large part of the Chinese population to retain a high immunity level against various mutant strains. Recently, the second booster shot campaign has been pushing forward nationwide, with special attention on elderly people and people with serious underlying health conditions.
In the past three years, China has promoted robust international solidarity. Since COVID-19 began, China has actively participated in the international response. China shared the genome sequence of the virus at the earliest opportunity, making important contributions to drug and vaccine research around the world. The competent authorities in China have kept regular communications with the WHO, carried out dialogues with partner countries to exchange technical experience, and shared information in a timely, open and transparent manner in accordance with the law, aiming at an early global victory over the pandemic. Meanwhile, to strengthen global defences, China has provided anti-pandemic materials to 153 countries and 15 international organisations, sent medical expert groups to 34 countries and offered over 2.2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organisations.
In the last quarter of 2022, China adapted and refined its response policies, in line with a changed landscape of viral contagion. This shift is science-based, timely and necessary. It fully took into account the much less pathogenic and deadly status of the globally spreading Omicron variant, as well as the progress that China’s treatment, testing and vaccination capacity is steadily on the rise, and would concentrate its response from stemming infection to caring for health and preventing severe cases.
According to this adaptation, people infected with coronavirus will no longer be quarantined and their close contacts will no longer be traced. Moreover, China is one step closer to fully opening to the outside, as domestic and foreign airlines will operate scheduled passenger flights, with limits on flights no longer applicable including closed management, nucleic acid testing, and quarantine measures.
Countries adjusting the COVID policy would invariably go through a period of adaptation. China is no exception. However, China’s current COVID situation on the whole remains predictable and under control, as many cities have gone through the peak. This adaptation by China is also important from a strategic and long-term perspective, for effectively coordinating COVID response with economic and social development. American, British, German and other foreign chambers of commerce in China commend this downgrade adaptation, noting this will clear the way for the resumption of people-to-people exchange and business travel, and enhance foreign investors’ confidence in the Chinese market.
In comparison with the natural virus, what we should be much more vigilant about is the political virus. As many international health experts indicate that the main variant now spreading in China is the same one prevalent in other countries, it is senseless to impose extra restrictions on travelers from China. The political manipulation of COVID response measures by a few countries would only bring chaos to the world’s sense of solidarity. In this regard, we highly commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for its science-based and proportionate COVID response measures, which has been evident from the very beginning of its response.
The light of hope on the final victory over the pandemic is right in front of us. Just as appealed by President Xi in his New Year Address, “let’s make an extra effort to pull through, as perseverance and solidarity mean victory.”
Cui Jianchun is the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria.
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