BEIJING (Reuters) - China will persevere with its "dynamic-clearing" approach to COVID-19 cases as soon as they emerge, health officials said on Saturday, adding that measures must be implemented more precisely and meet the needs of vulnerable people.
The country's strict COVID containment approach is still able to control the virus, despite the high transmissibility of COVID variants and asymptomatic carriers, an official from the China National Health Commission told a news conference.
China's zero-COVID policy includes lockdowns, quarantining and rigorous testing, aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Asked if there would be a change of policy in the near term, disease control official Hu Xiang said China's measures are "completely correct, as well as the most economical and effective."
"We should adhere to the principle of putting people and lives first, and the broader strategy of preventing imports from outside and internal rebounds," she said.
The briefing followed a week in which markets surged on hope China would relax restrictions, buoyed further on Friday when a former disease control official told a banking conference that China would make "substantial" changes to COVID policy in the coming months.
Some areas had been guilty of unscientific "one-size-fits-all" lockdowns, the officials said, singling out the southwestern cities of Nanchong and Bijie, and Zhengzhou city officials in central Henan province for deliberately turning thousands of citizens’ health codes red.
"We attach great importance to these problems and are rectifying them," said Tuo Jia, another disease control official.
Epidemic-hit areas must meet the needs of the elderly, sick, disabled, young and pregnant, Tuo said.
Officials said they would begin a push to increase vaccinations among the elderly, noting that while 86.35% of citizens aged 60 and over are fully vaccinated, fewer people 80 and older have had vaccinations and boosters.
China reported 3,837 new COVID-19 infections for Friday, of which 657 were symptomatic and 3,180 were asymptomatic, a slight decrease from the six-month-high of 4,045 new COVID-19 infections reported a day earlier.
Officials in Guangzhou said on Saturday the southern megacity is facing its most severe and complicated outbreak in three years of the virus, with 111 new locally transmitted symptomatic and 635 asymptomatic cases reported for a day earlier.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing and David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Michael Perry and William Mallard)