State Council's inter-agency task force briefing on ensuring services and supplies to people who stay put during the Spring Festival holiday

The State Council's inter-agency task force held a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday to brief the media about the circular on how to ensure services and supplies to people who stay put during the Spring Festival holiday. January 28, 2021

Shou Xiaoli:

Thank you, Mr. Zhao. Next, Mr. Zeng will have the floor.

Zeng Yixin:

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Zhao has elaborated on the arrangements for the Spring Festival holidays just now. Next, I'll brief on epidemic prevention and control.

As we all know, COVID-19 cluster infections have been spotted in China since last December. Multiple transmission chains have occurred simultaneously in the same province and city, and cases linked to cluster infection are seen amongst family members and communities. In general, new elements have emerged amid the current epidemic prevention and control works.

The first change is that epidemics often occurred in cold northern part of China. Virus can survive for a longer time in low temperatures. Besides, current epidemics are found mostly in rural areas where these are relatively fewer preventive efforts are available, thus, it is easy for the epidemic to spread.

The second change is that the number of imported COVID-19 cases has surged significantly. The average number of such cases per day in January was nearly twice that recorded last November, so China still faces mounting pressure in preventing imported COVID-19 cases.

The third change is that, as the Spring Festival approaches, the flow of people and logistic services will increase, and there will be more cluster activities such as group dining and gatherings. These will increase the risks of the spread of epidemic. Therefore, it is estimated that the risks of regional spread caused by imported COVID-19 cases and relevant objects are still high, and the epidemic situation is severe and complex.

To effectively cope with the emerging challenges of epidemic prevention and control, meanwhile working with relevant government bodies to prevent epidemic during the Spring Festival travel rush and support people to spend the holiday where they work, we will carry out work in the following aspects:

First, we will continue to take measures to reinforce weak links existing in epidemic prevention and control in rural areas. As I mentioned, current epidemics are found mostly in rural areas. In addition to urging all areas to strictly implement the measures listed in work plans for epidemic prevention and control in rural areas in winter and spring, such as nucleic acid testing, epidemiological investigation, quarantine, patient transfer, medical treatment, and information release, we will further specify the requirements needed for travel for people in areas with different risk levels. In regard to the increasing demand of nucleic acid tests for those returning to their hometowns during the Spring Festival, we will help local government improve their testing capabilities, working proactively to reduce the cost of these tests, making arrangements to help improve timeliness and convenience. China can offer 15 million nucleic acid tests for COVID-19 daily at present, and this is the figure when using a single tube, which means using one test tube to contain the samples collected from one person. If we use one test tube to contain five or even ten persons' samples, the nucleic test capacity will be further improved, and this will provide strong support for the epidemic prevention and control works.

Second, we will further standardize the handling of clustered epidemics. We have comprehensively sorted out some of the problems exposed through handling the epidemics in places such as Xinjiang's Kashgar, Hebei's Shijiazhuang, and Heilongjiang's Suihua, and refined, actualized and standardized the process of handling cluster cases throughout. We asked local governments at all levels to promptly activate their emergency command systems and quickly organize specialized epidemiological investigations and contact tracing. This work is particularly important. Once an epidemic occurs, we must locate the source as soon as possible and understand how the epidemic has occurred so that we can better take targeted measures to control the outbreak. We must then promptly, scientifically, and accurately demarcate and adjust the medium and high-risk areas, implement measures such as community and individual isolation control and nucleic acid testing in different regions and levels, and strive to keep the initiative in epidemic prevention and control in our hands. 

Third, we must continue to prevent imported cases. Above all, it is necessary to further strengthen the standardized management of the entire chain for international arrivals, from the airport to quarantine venues, and then to the community. We require all localities to prepare enough isolation rooms, comprehensively strengthen the management of isolation sites, standardize services, and avoid cross-infection. Moreover, we demand strict implementation of the responsibilities of industries and entities such as those that import cold chain food and goods. Relevant key practitioners must strictly perform personal protection and key personnel should be given priority when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This work is ongoing. 

Fourth, we will continue to intensify the popularization of health science. Recently, various health science popularization activities have been carried out with regards to winter and spring pandemic prevention and control, and personal protection, etc. We shall widely popularize scientific protection knowledge, encouraging the masses to develop good habits in mask wearing, frequent hand washing, and social distancing. People are also advised to keep personal and environmental hygiene, maintain good ventilation, enhance personal protection awareness, and improve self-protection capabilities. This aspect is particularly important because if everyone is able to do their part well, these measures are practically effective for epidemic control.

The above is my brief introduction to the current situation. Next, my colleagues will be happy to answer your questions. 

Shou Xiaoli:

Thank you, Mr. Zeng. Now the floor is open to questions. Please inform us of the news organization you are with before asking questions.

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