China on Wednesday stopped releasing data on asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, saying it is impossible to monitor them accurately, with many people no longer taking PCR tests after the government significantly eased its strict "zero-COVID" policy last week.
The National Health Commission only reported about 2,200 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases with symptoms for the previous day. It began releasing data on asymptomatic cases in the spring of 2020, and those with no symptoms had been subject to quarantine at designated facilities under the zero-COVID policy.
On Dec. 7, the government announced further relaxation of its antivirus steps, such as reducing PCR testing in scope and frequency and allowing those with no or mild symptoms of the disease to be quarantined at home after rare nationwide protests against the strict measures erupted in late November.
With the lifting of the stringent restrictions that involved lockdowns, virus infections are believed to be widespread in major Chinese cities. The government has encouraged people to recuperate at home if they test positive with an antigen test kit.
China's top health body issued a plan Wednesday to roll out second booster shots for high-risk groups including the elderly above 60 years old and people with underlying diseases, according to state-run media.
On Tuesday, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan stressed the importance of ensuring the smooth transition of the country's COVID-19 response phases, saying priority should shift from preventing infections to medical treatment, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Sun, who is in charge of antivirus measures, made the remarks as she inspected Beijing hospitals amid rapid growth of new infections.
The vice premier said the number of fever clinics in the capital should be increased from about 300 currently and also called for a boost in medical personnel and better protection of vulnerable groups including the elderly, those with underlying diseases, children and pregnant women.
Amid public concerns over a shortage of medicines and test kits, she said the manufacturing and supply of those items is being ramped up and that it can meet the demand in general. "With the advantage of the system to mobilize resources nationwide, we can definitely tide over this COVID-19 peak," Sun said.