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'Light of hope is right in front of us...' Xi Jinping's New Year address amid surge in COVID cases

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Saturday for more effort and unity as the country enters a "new phase" in its approach to combating the pandemic. Three years after the coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Beijing this month began ditching its hardline containment policy known as 'zero-Covid'.

Light of hope is right in front of us Xi Jinping New Year address amid surge in COVID cases gcw
First Published Jan 1, 2023, 10:05 AM IST

As China experiences a surge in instances of Covid-19 following an unexpected easing of regulations, President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that "light of hope is right in front of us."

Beijing started abandoning its strict containment strategy known as "zero-Covid" last month, three years after the coronavirus first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Since then, Chinese hospitals have been overwhelmed with an influx of patients, largely old, crematoriums are overflowing, and many pharmacies are out of anti-fever drugs.

“Epidemic prevention and control is entering a new phase… Everyone is working resolutely, and the light of hope is right in front of us," Xi said in a televised address for the New Year.

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"Since the outbreak of the epidemic … the majority of cadres and masses, especially medical personnel, grassroots workers braved hardships and courageously persevered," he said.

It was the Chinese president’s second time commenting on the outbreak this week. On Monday, he called for measures to “effectively protect people’s lives".

Out of its 1.4 billion people, China announced on Saturday more than 7,000 new cases and one death associated with Covid, but the reported numbers don't seem to match the reality on the ground.

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After three years of frustration, the authorities have stated they would stop requiring travellers entering China to undergo quarantine upon arrival beginning January 8.

As a result, a number of European nations, including France and Italy, the United States, and Japan have declared they will want negative testing from travellers entering from China, mostly out of concern about new variations.

The WHO announced Friday evening that it had met with Chinese officials to discuss the outbreak.  Additionally, data on vaccines was requested, particularly for elderly and vulnerable individuals.

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Beijing claims that since the beginning of the epidemic, their Covid statistics have been open to the public. Since 2020, the zero-Covid policy's widespread testing, stringent movement surveillance, and quarantine directives have largely safeguarded the Chinese populace.

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