Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country’s officials to take steps to protect people’s lives as the country has been facing an upsurge in COVID-19 cases since Beijing dramatically loosened its hardline containment measures earlier this month.
"At present, COVID-19 prevention and control in China are facing a new situation and new tasks," Xi said in a directive on Monday, according to the country’s CCTV broadcaster.
"We should launch the patriotic health campaign in a more targeted way... fortify a community line of defense for epidemic prevention and control, and effectively protect people's lives, safety and health," the Chinese president added.
His remarks came as hospitals across the country have been overflowing with COVID-19 patients and victims.
China's National Health Commission on Sunday announced it would stop publishing daily nationwide infection and death statistics.
Beijing has admitted the scale of the outbreak has become "impossible" to track following the end of mandatory mass testing, as people are now not obliged to declare test results to authorities.
The winter surge comes ahead of two major public holidays next month. Authorities are bracing for the virus to hit under-resourced rural areas hard, as millions of migrant workers are expected to travel to their hometowns to reunite with their families.
Authorities have also called for the guaranteed supply of drugs and medical treatment during New Year's Day and the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which begins January 21.
Having mostly cut itself off from the rest of the world during the pandemic, China is now experiencing the planet's biggest surge in infections.
In recent days, health officials in the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang estimated that one million residents were being infected per day, while the coastal city of Qingdao predicted roughly 500,000 new daily infections and the southern manufacturing city of Dongguan eyed 250,000 to 300,000.
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