China's President Xi Jinping on Saturday acknowledged that the current wave of COVID-19 sweeping across the country has "entered a new phase" and "tough challenges remain" as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked Beijing to provide more data about the coronavirus variants amid India and other countries ramping up measures to screen travellers from the Communist nation.
"We have now entered a new phase of COVID-19 response where tough challenges remain," Xi said in his New Year address to the nation, adding that it has "not been an easy journey" as the country has to face "unprecedented difficulties and challenges".
Speaking on national television from behind a desk in a wood-paneled office, Xi said that China's extraordinary efforts have helped it prevail over unprecedented difficulties.
"With extraordinary efforts, we have prevailed over unprecedented difficulties and challenges and it has not been an easy journey for anyone,” he said without providing much information about the dire situation prevailing in the country.
During his address, Xi said that China has adopted COVID-19 response in light of the evolving situation.
“Since COVID-19 struck we have put the people first and put life first all along. Following a science-based and targeted approach, we have adapted our COVID response in light of the evolving situation to protect the life and health of the people to the greatest extent possible,” he said.
“Officials and the general public, particularly medical professionals and community workers, have bravely stuck to their posts through it all. With extraordinary efforts, we have prevailed over unprecedented difficulties and challenges, and it has not been an easy journey for anyone,” Xi added.
He said that everyone is holding on with great fortitude.
“And the light of hope is right in front of us. Let's make an extra effort to pull through, as perseverance and solidarity mean victory,” he said.
This is the second time in the last few days Xi spoke about the prevailing grim COVID-19 situation in the country after his government overnight relaxed the zero-COVID policy early this month following public protests.
Since then cases stated to be variants of the Omicron spread like wildfire in the country.
Also the Chinese government's latest move to scrap the three-year-old quarantine from the 8th of next month opening up the international borders has caused concern all over the world.
The move coming ahead of China's Spring festival holidays during which millions of Chinese were expected to travel abroad has sparked fears of the virus spreading again.
After repeated appeals from WHO, China on Friday permitted its health officials to interact with WHO experts.
After the meeting statement from WHO said it “again asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation — including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact including hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths — and data on vaccinations delivered and vaccination status, especially in vulnerable people and those over 60 years old”.
China has not been releasing any data of the virus nor the deaths taking place in the country amid video reports of mortuaries filled with bodies, especially that of unvaccinated old people.
“WHO stressed the importance of monitoring and the timely publication of data to help China and the global community to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective responses,” the statement said.
Earlier on Thursday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the countries around the world taking precautionary measures to screen arrivals from China amid criticism from Beijing.
“In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways that they believe may protect their populations," he tweeted.
Tedros' remarks came against the backdrop of China criticising the countermeasures taken by various countries including the US, Japan and India requiring travellers from China to undergo the required tests.
Asked about Tedros' comments saying that the protective measures taken by various countries are understandable, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told media here on Friday over the past few days, authoritative medical experts from different countries have said that entry restrictions on travellers arriving from China are unnecessary.
Chinese official media criticised the screening of travellers from China.
A small number of countries and regions, such as the US and Japan see China's reopening as another chance to defame Beijing, a report in the state-run Global Times said.
They have imposed travel restrictions on arrivals from China, citing what experts called 'unfounded' and 'discriminatory' measures to defend their moves, but the real intention is to sabotage China's three years of COVID-19 control efforts and attack the country's system , it said.
In New Delhi on Thursday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that a negative COVID-19 report will be a must for passengers arriving in India from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand from January 1.