Delivery workers wait to pick up meals at a food street in Beijing on Tuesday. The demand for food delivery has soared with many people quarantined at home for COVID-19 control. （Photo by FENG YONGBIN/CHINA DAILY）
Unnecessary restrictions at grassroots to be removed as soon as possible
Authorities will accelerate the lifting of unnecessary restrictions put in place after the recent Omicron-fueled outbreaks to reduce the disease control strategies' economic fallout and other resulting "inconveniences", a senior health official said on Tuesday, amid a surge of public displeasure toward the distorted enforcement of containment policies.
National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said local governments are racing to make "concrete and detailed" plans after central authorities unveiled the"20 measures" on optimizing the country's COVID-19 strategies this month.
"Based on contact tracing and nucleic acid test results, local authorities must make a precise judgment over the designation of risky areas, and remove all needless restrictions as soon as possible to minimize the inconvenience caused to the public," he told a news conference in Beijing.
He called for more efforts to avoid bureaucracy and over-simplicity in the implementation process at the grassroots level, and to respond to sensible public demands.
The remarks came as Omicron variants have fueled more frequent outbreaks and triggered widespread lockdowns of residential complexes nationwide.
Outrage erupted after a fire broke out at a residential high-rise this week in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, killing 10 people.
Asked if China will make changes to its containment measures in the face of public discontentment, Mi said adjustment has never ceased.
"Since the onset of the epidemic, the Chinese government has been doing research and making adjustments as the virus mutates and as the clinical data accumulate," he said, adding that the changes of the transmissibility and potency of the Omicron variant, including the rate of severe illness and mortality, are closely watched for potential policy changes.
"The aim is to maximize the protection of people's interests and minimize the impact of the epidemic on socioeconomic development," he said.
Cheng Youquan, an official with the National Disease Control Bureau, said the recent surge in public ire is mostly directed at local governments' negligence in meeting the demands of the public in restricted areas, and the "one-size-fits-all "approach toward controlling the spread of COVID-19, rather than the control measures themselves.
"Some localities randomly, and sometimes unnecessarily, expand the area and people involved in the restriction, and don't lift restrictions for a long time, and some places even impose control measures without approval," he said.
Special commissions have been established nationwide to tackle such wrongdoings, and are responding to problems posed by netizens, he added.
The Chinese mainland on Tuesday reported 3,561 local cases, and 34,860 local asymptomatic carriers, according to the National Health Commission. The number of severely ill patients on Tuesday was 106.