China will continue its routine COVID-19 control measures this year, with a focus on rolling out targeted and scientific measures to minimize their impact on normal production and lives, as well as accelerating research into vaccines and medicines, according to the Government Work Report released on Saturday.
The country will stick to its strategy of preventing imported infections and domestic flare-ups while refining its virus containment measures by stepping up the capabilities of port cities, intensifying studies into virus mutations and continuing the mass vaccination campaign.
Last year, China consolidated outcomes achieved through its effective COVID-19 response and fully vaccinated over 85 percent of its population, according to the report, which Premier Li Keqiang delivered at the opening of the fifth session of the 13th National People's Congress.
"Local outbreaks were suppressed in an effective and quick manner," he said. "By making these efforts, we ensured the health and safety of the people and maintained the normal order of work and life."
The country's dynamic zero-case policy, which emphasizes prompt control of fresh domestic outbreaks, has enabled it to maintain "a world-leading position in COVID-19 control", according to another work report issued by the National Development and Reform Commission on Saturday.
Concerted efforts have also been devoted to guaranteeing supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and upgrading them to tackle new variants. By the end of last year, more than 5 billion doses had been produced, and the domestic immunization campaign had progressed smoothly to cover 1.2 billion people, the NDRC work report said.
The first domestically developed drug for treating COVID-19 was also approved for market, it added.
In terms of international cooperation, China has actively shared samples, data and response measures related to COVID-19 with the international community. It became the world's largest provider of COVID-19 vaccines, greatly boosting their accessibility in developing countries.
This year, in the face of sporadic local outbreaks and the virus' rampage overseas, the reports said the disease control capabilities of ports and centralized isolation facilities will be further strengthened, along with intensified efforts to sanitize cold chain imports and manage high-risk workers.
Xiang Dong, deputy head of the Research Office of the State Council, China's Cabinet, said the Chinese mainland has experienced more than 40 infection clusters in the past two years, all triggered by imported infections.
"That's why we need to make disease control work at port cities the top priority and enforce measures targeting people, objects and environments simultaneously to fend off infections," he said during a news briefing on Saturday.
"Local governments are strictly prohibited from imposing extra lockdowns, suspending public transportation without permission or recklessly imposing disease control restrictions on the service industry," he said. "Neither loosened alertness nor excessive curbs are allowed."
More efforts will be devoted to expanding coverage of booster shots and rolling out sequential immunization－booster shots based on technologies different from those used in initial inoculations.
Zhang Boli, a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and an academician with the Academy of Engineering, told Xinhua News Agency that monitoring the pandemic's trajectory and building herd immunity barriers as soon as possible are critical.
"It is important to increase vaccination among the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and children," he said.
The reports said international cooperation in a host of fields－such as clinical trials of new vaccines and drugs, donations of vaccines and anti-epidemic materials, and the trading of vaccines and raw materials－will be further promoted.
"We will support the World Trade Organization in making decisions to waive the intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines at the earliest opportunity, and we will encourage Chinese vaccine companies to transfer technology to other developing countries," the NDRC work report said.
Zhu Tao, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and chief scientist for domestic vaccine company CanSino Biologics, said that as one of the few countries making breakthroughs in COVID-19 vaccine research, China is capable of introducing its technologies to countries in need.
He said he has proposed setting up cooperation agencies with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative to facilitate technology transfers and offering more support to help Chinese enterprises set up plants overseas to create an international supply chain of vaccines.