BEIJING (Reuters) – China will prevent and control health outbreaks in a more scientific, precise and efficient way, and upgrade vaccines and develop new medicines to ensure enough supply for the public, Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday.
The country was battered with a surge in COVID-19 cases after it abruptly abandoned its zero-COVID policy in early December, unleashing the virus on its 1.4 billion population. The government put a top priority on getting its most vulnerable vaccinated, including the elderly.
Last month, China’s top leaders declared a “major victory” over COVID, claiming the world’s lowest fatality rate, although experts have questioned that data.
Li said in a government work report at the opening of China’s annual parliament meeting that the country will continue to focus on epidemic control and medical treatment for the elderly, children and groups with underlying diseases.
The world’s second-largest economy will also continue to increase the vaccination rate among elderly, and promote the expansion and upgrade of critical care resources, China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said in a separate report.
Beijing has been largely resistant to Western vaccines and treatments, having relied on locally-made shots. During last year’s parliament meeting, the government said the country would speed up research and development of vaccines and drugs.
On Sunday, the NDRC also said China will make continuous efforts to ensure the production, distribution and supply of key medical supplies.
Major drugstore chains and internet platforms will play a bigger role in raising efficiency of drug distribution and delivery, it said.
(Reporting by Ethan Wang and Bernard Orr; Editing by William Mallard and Tom Hogue)