NEWS|People-centered prevention and control of COVID-19 in China

Medical staff members conduct door-to-door COVID-19 test service, at Yuzhong District, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, November 26, 2022. /CFP

Medical staff members conduct door-to-door COVID-19 test service, at Yuzhong District, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, November 26, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Liu Jue is an assistant professor at Institute for Global Health and Development and School of Public Health, Peking University. She gained her PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics at the university in 2016. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

COVID-19 is a major global public health issue. In the past three years, China has always been people-centered, tried its best to save people's lives, and made significant achievements on coordinating prevention and control of COVID-19 and socioeconomic development.

Because of the large population, unbalanced regional development, and insufficient medical resources, China faces more challenges than many other countries. However, under the powerful leadership of the Communist Party of China, the whole nation has followed a general principle of "remaining confident, coming together in solidarity, adopting a science-based approach, and taking targeted measures."

After little more than a single month following the first coronavirus outbreak in the country in December 2019, its rising spread was contained; around two months later, the daily increase in domestic cases had fallen to single digits; and approximately three months later, a decisive victory was secured in the battle to defend central China's Hubei Province and its capital city of Wuhan, where the first case was confirmed.

During the normalized prevention and control phase, China has timely and dynamically adjusted prevention and control measures on COVID-19 to deal with the constant variation and uncertainty of the virus. Nine versions of national COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment plan and nine versions of national COVID-19 prevention and control plan have been issued, as well as the recently announced "20 new measures for optimizing COVID-19 response."

From the original strain, namely severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), to Omicron strain, China has constantly optimized evidence-based prevention and control measures for COVID-19, effectively handled more than 100 outbreaks of cluster infections, and protected the lives and health of more than 1.4 billion people during the most ferocious outbreaks of the virus.

It is well known that excess mortality is a scientific measure of the overall impact of the crisis, which is defined as the difference in the total number of deaths in a crisis compared to those expected under normal conditions. On December 14, 2022, the Nature has published an article titled "the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates of excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic."

The WHO researchers reported a comprehensive and consistent measurement of the impact of the pandemic by estimating excess deaths by month in 2020 and 2021. They predicted all-cause deaths during the pandemic period in locations lacking complete reported data using an over-dispersed Poisson count framework that applies Bayesian inference techniques to quantify uncertainty. According to the WHO estimation, there were 14.83 million excess deaths globally due to COVID-19. Wide variations in the excess death estimates were observed across the six WHO regions. Among them, China was at the lowest level on excess mortality.

Besides the great efforts in saving lives, the prevalence of COVID-19 infection in China was also at the lowest level in the world in the past three years, with 686 cumulative total cases per 100,000 population, according to the WHO COVID-19 Dashboard. The global average level was 8,336 cumulative total cases per 100,000 population and the highest country-level in the world was 70,926 cumulative total cases per 100,000 population, respectively. According to the WHO report, as of December 20, the cumulative number of confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the world has exceeded 649 million, with 6.64 million deaths.

Although there is a certain gap between China and developed countries in terms of the per capita distribution of health resources and medical technology, the average life expectancy has risen steadily in the past two years despite the attack of COVID-19. Benefiting from people-centered measures for COVID-19, the average life expectancy of Chinese residents reached 77.93 years in 2020, 0.63 years higher than that in 2019. The figure kept on rising and reached 78.2 years in 2021. 

Elderly people ice skate on a frozen river in Jilin City, northeast China's Jilin Province, December 7, 2022. /CFP

Elderly people ice skate on a frozen river in Jilin City, northeast China's Jilin Province, December 7, 2022. /CFP

My recent research also found that the incidence rates of Class‐A and Class‐B infectious diseases in China were decreasing in the past decade because of comprehensive prevention and control measures and a strengthened health system after the implementation of the new healthcare reform in China since 2009.

The adjustment of prevention and control measures is a systematic project, which requires comprehensive consideration of various factors, such as the characteristics of the virus, the epidemiological characteristics of the disease and the status of the disease spectrum, the situation and trend of the epidemic, the level of population immunity, and the prevention and treatment capacity of the health system.

After three years of combating COVID-19 outbreaks, we have researched and developed technologies on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19; the full vaccination rate of the whole population has exceeded 90 percent; the health awareness and literacy of the people have been improved a lot; and the virulence of the Omicron strain has significantly weakened compared with other coronavirus strains, which has laid the foundation and created conditions for us to move past the pandemic.

I believe that as the people are united as one, China can certainly overcome all difficulties. The warm spring is coming.

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