Remarks on Novel Coronavirus Response
Delivered at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee
February 3, 2020
Not long after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, on January 7, I set requirements for disease prevention and control while chairing a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee Political Bureau. On January 20, I made comments on a report on this work, pointing out that it is imperative to attach great importance to the outbreak, and to do everything in our power to control its spread. I asked Party committees and governments at all levels and the departments concerned to give top priority to the health and safety of the people and take effective measures to stop the spread of the disease. On January 22, in view of the grave challenges to prevention and control work posed by the disease’s rapid spread, I categorically requested that Hubei Province adopt full and strict controls on outflows of people. On January 25, the first day of the Chinese New Year, I once again chaired a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, at which we undertook further studies, further planning, and further preparations for disease prevention and control, especially with regard to patient treatment, and decided to establish the Central Leading Group for Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Control.
Since January 25, prevention and control of the disease has been the issue I’ve been most concerned about. I have been closely following its spread and the progress we’ve made in prevention and control, and have continually issued oral and written directions. The CPC Central Committee issued the Notice on Strengthening Party Leadership to Provide Firm Political Guarantee for Winning the Battle Against Novel Coronavirus.
The Central Leading Group for Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Control has held many meetings to study and develop strategies for disease prevention and control, and the steering teams dispatched to areas badly hit by the epidemic have also been actively carrying out their work. The joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council has strengthened coordination in solving pressing problems without delay. All departments concerned have performed their respective duties, and the armed forces have actively provided support to local governments. Every region has established a leading group headed by the principal leaders of its Party Committee and government and activated a Level I public health emergency response.
All Party, government, and military departments, people’s organizations, enterprises, and public institutions have sprung into action and spared no effort in fighting the battle against the disease. Medical personnel around the country are working selflessly and courageously on the frontline. The Chinese people are united as one and demonstrating an unyielding will, launching an all-out people’s war against the epidemic. Full mobilization, comprehensive planning, and all-around strengthening of the prevention and control efforts are now well under way across the country.
Under the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee and with concerted efforts being made on all sides, prevention and control work is proceeding effectively and has earned approval from all sectors of society and the international community. During my meeting with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Dr Tedros praised China for acting at an unprecedented speed and scale. He said that this is a reflection on China’s robust institutions, that other countries should learn from China’s experience, and that he was confident the measures China has taken would effectively bring the disease under control and eventually defeat it.
Overall, all the CPC Central Committee’s judgments about the epidemic situation have been accurate, all our work has been planned out in a timely manner, and all the moves we’ve taken have been effective. The most important thing now is that we do solid, meticulous work to ensure full implementation. Here, I would like to emphasize the following points.
I. On the current situation and priorities of novel coronavirus containment
Our efforts for novel coronavirus prevention and control have a direct bearing on the health and safety of our people, on China’s economic development and social stability, and on the opening up of our country. We must work together as one with confidence and resolve, ensuring science-based prevention and treatment, adopting targeted policies, and racing against time, to resolutely curb the spread of the virus and win the battle against the disease. At present, priority should be placed on the following work.
First, we need to strengthen unified leadership over novel coronavirus prevention and control.
We must coordinate all efforts across the country. Party committees and governments at all levels must resolutely obey the CPC Central Committee’s unified command, coordination, and deployment, and ensure all orders and prohibitions are followed without fail. Implementation of the CPC Central Committee’s decisions and strategies by all regions and departments has been generally good, but there are also some weak links and problems that deserve our attention. These weaknesses must be shored up, and loopholes closed off as soon as possible. Prevention and control of the disease is not just a matter of medical and health care. Rather, it is an all-encompassing effort and an all-out war. Support for winning the battle must be provided in all aspects of our work. As the epidemic situation changes rapidly and new circumstances and new problems keep cropping up in different fields, we must ensure close follow-ups, timely analysis, and prompt action as well as firm, effective, and relentless efforts in all aspects of our work.
When taking measures, each region and department needs to consider not only its own prevention and control needs, but also the impact on key areas and the country as a whole. Those who fail to effectively implement the CPC Central Committee’s decisions and plans must be called out and ordered to put things right immediately. Those who fail to obey unified command and deployment or are only concerned with the interests of their own areas or departments, or who are unwilling to do the right thing, work in a superficial way, or shirk their responsibilities will not only be individually held to account, but in serious cases the principal Party and government officials concerned will also be called to account. Any dereliction or neglect of duty will be punished in accordance with law and discipline.
Second, we need to strengthen epidemic control in key areas.
Only by concentrating our efforts on bringing the disease under control in key areas can we fundamentally and rapidly reverse its spread across the country. We must focus on the regional coordination of prevention and treatment forces, pool medical resources and protective equipment to support the frontline, and prioritize the needs of medical workers and patients.
Hubei Province and Wuhan City in particular remain the foremost priority in the national prevention and control effort – most infected people in other parts of our country have had contact with people from Hubei. Therefore, if we can stabilize the epidemic in Hubei, we can stabilize the whole country. On the one hand, we should continue to strengthen prevention and control throughout the province, strictly implementing measures for early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment of cases, stepping up epidemic monitoring, and treating patients at designated hospitals, while requiring all close contacts to remain under medical observation at home. On the other hand, we should continue to reinforce measures to prevent the epidemic from spreading outside the province. Civil aviation, railway, highway, and waterborne passenger transport routes out of Hubei have been shut, and this has played an important role in the control of the spread of the virus around the country. However, the risks posed by some people leaving the province through other means cannot be ignored.
In Hubei’s neighboring provinces and provinces with high population mobility, the virus has been spreading rapidly over the past few days, as evidenced by the soaring numbers of newly confirmed cases. We must get local Party committees and governments to fulfill their responsibilities, strengthen grid-based management of prevention and control efforts in local communities, carry out blanket searches, and take more rigorous, targeted and effective measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic. It is necessary to promptly identify risks and weak links in the prevention of outbreaks among return travelers, ensure that prevention and control duties are performed at places of origin and destination, and do a good job in passenger health monitoring and the disinfection and ventilation of vehicles and transportation facilities. Beijing holds a position of unique importance, as it faces mounting pressure from a large number of returning travelers. To curb the spread of the epidemic, we need to improve measures, strengthen control over key groups, reduce the mobility of sources of infection, and minimize flows of people and close contact.
Third, we need to raise the hospital admission and cure rates while lowering the infection and death rates.
This is a prominent task in prevention and control work at present. Hospitals dedicated to admitting and treating coronavirus patients must be completed and put into use as soon as possible, and more medical workers should be sent from around the country to assist Wuhan and the rest of Hubei as needed, while ensuring that steps are in place to support the physical and mental health of these workers. We should coordinate the deployment of personnel effectively, bringing together the most capable and experienced health workers to achieve coordinated treatment of severe cases, and try our very best to bring the fatality rate down. In areas with high incidence rates, if conditions allow, the “Xiaotangshan Hospital” model should be adopted to strengthen treatment efforts. We should also see that effective methods used by hospitals to treat patients with severe conditions are shared in a timely manner.
Fourth, we need to step up efforts to tackle tough problems in research.
Scientific and technological support is indispensable for defeating the epidemic. It is crucial to scientifically determine the origin of the virus, identify sources of infection and routes of transmission as quickly as possible, keep close track of virus mutations, and develop response strategies and measures accordingly. As I pointed out in 2016, we should explore an open tendering system to select the best candidates, regardless of background, to lead the development of key core technologies. We need to mobilize universities, research institutes, and enterprises in the research and development of vaccines and medicines needed to combat coronavirus, and promote synergy between scientific research, clinical treatment, and epidemic control efforts, so as to speed up progress on the basis of science. All relevant data and case information, unless deemed to be confidential by law, should be shared among our country’s scientific community, once national security requirements are met. Studies of the virus’ transmissibility, virulence, and other key features conducted by experts in clinical medicine, epidemiology, virology, and other fields should be organized so that practical and effective breakthroughs can be made as soon as possible. We should encourage experts and scholars to enhance their professionalism and sense of responsibility and provide more professional advice and suggestions on the basis of research.
II. On maintaining social stability
Maintaining social stability is an important safeguard for ensuring our response to the disease is effective. At present, we need to focus on the following tasks.
First, we need to make every effort to ensure normal economic and social order.
While carrying out disease prevention and control, we need to maintain stability and order in production and in society, and avoid the occurrence of “secondary disasters” caused by public panic about increasing numbers of confirmed cases or short supplies of basic goods. We must ensure the production, distribution, and supply of staple and non-staple foods, and ensure supplies of daily necessities such as vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products, and grains. Under the system of city mayors assuming responsibility for the “vegetable basket,” all city mayors are tasked with coordinating the production of vegetables and other non-staple foods, guiding the distribution of goods and market supply, and taking measures to smooth the passage of vehicles transporting daily necessities. Supplies of coal, electricity, petroleum, and gas must be guaranteed to meet people’s energy demands. Psychological and counseling services should be increased, as should compassionate care for those in need.
Second, we need to maintain order during medical treatment.
Special staff and resources must be deployed and organization and management strengthened to ensure security and order in designated medical institutions and isolation venues. Guidance should be provided to relevant agencies on taking rigorous internal security and prevention measures, so as to maintain order during medical treatment and isolation. We must take resolute steps to deal with those who physically assault or harm medical personnel or disrupt medical treatment, and ensure that cases are handled in a law-based manner while providing the public with prompt and accurate information so as to prevent negative impacts on society. Coordinated efforts are needed to ensure medical services for patients with other diseases, whose care and needs must not be forgotten at this time. In addition, it is necessary to strengthen the protection of frontline law-enforcement personnel to ensure their safety.
Third, we need to safeguard public security and social stability.
We should deploy more police officers and enhance visible policing, fully implement mechanisms for joint patrol and action and for joint prevention and control operations by the public security and armed police forces, and increase police presence and intervention. We should maintain a tough stance and take resolute action against crimes that disrupt social order by exploiting the epidemic to engage in price gouging, hoarding, and profiteering, and the production and sale of counterfeit and substandard medicines, medical appliances, and medical materials. We must remain alert to various emerging issues and resolve them in a timely manner to prevent different types of problems from piling up on each other and creating chain effects.
Fourth, we need to maintain normal order in transportation.
We need to strengthen road traffic control measures, assist in checks of personnel, vehicles, and goods entering and exiting disease control areas, and give priority to ensuring the passage of ambulances, epidemic prevention vehicles, and vehicles carrying medical workers, medicine and equipment, and daily necessities. All regions need to enhance coordination and planning to ensure that personnel and vehicles can travel normally. Large cities should, according to their disease prevention and control needs, look into staggering the resumption of work, return journeys of residents, and commuting hours, and consider introducing temporary suspensions of traffic restrictions to minimize the number of passengers on buses and subways and prevent clusters of infections.
III. On effective public outreach and guiding public opinion
At present, the situation of epidemic prevention and control is severe and complex, and people may be plagued with anxiety and fear. We need to strengthen public communications, coordinating efforts online and offline, both in and outside of China, with regard to major and minor issues. With these efforts, we can boost confidence, keep people’s spirits up, rally popular support, and maintain overall social stability.
First, we need to increase government transparency and reinforce public confidence in fighting novel coronavirus.
Keeping our people better informed of what the Party and government are doing and plan to do is crucial for making the public confident that we will defeat the disease. We should thoroughly communicate the major decisions and strategies of the CPC Central Committee, report extensively on the joint prevention and control measures adopted by different regions and departments and the results they have achieved, tell moving stories of those working on the frontlines, and popularize infection prevention knowledge, in order to marshal a powerful force of unity to combat the epidemic. We need to increase public awareness and education about the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, and guide the whole of society to act in accordance with law. To give people greater confidence and stabilize public sentiment, we need to release a high density of authoritative information across multiple levels, squarely face existing problems and respond to people’s concerns in a more prompt, targeted and professional way. We need to formulate overall plans for public communications on major issues such as securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, making the final push in the fight against poverty, and stabilizing the economic situation. We must work toward introducing more positivity into current public opinion, and foster the sentiment that we will get through this no matter the obstacles.
Second, we should lead the way and build up positivity online.
We should strengthen efforts to track and study public opinion, be proactive about making our voice heard and provide positive guidance, and step up integrated communication and interaction, so that cyberspace is always filled with positivity. We need to carry out tailored activities to raise cultural and ethical standards, heighten public awareness about health concepts and knowledge on infectious disease prevention and control, and help people become more civic-minded and better able to protect themselves. We must make sure the general public is well-informed and strive to create a good environment for public discussion. We should strengthen regulation of online media, encourage media, organizations in charge, and regulators to fulfill their responsibilities and deal with, in accordance with law, those who use this moment as an opportunity to spread rumors and cause trouble.
Third, we should maintain a proactive stance and effectively communicate with the global community.
The international community is highly concerned about the developments of the epidemic situation. We should actively respond to international concerns, present the realities of China’s fight against the disease, and convey to the world the Chinese people’s unity and resolve. We need to do a good job in all diplomatic work related to epidemic prevention and control, continuing to effectively communicate and coordinate with the World Health Organization and relevant countries and regions, promoting information sharing and coordination on control strategies, and working to secure the understanding and support of the international community.
IV. On maintaining steady economic performance
As things stand at present, we will be persisting with this year’s economic and social development targets and tasks, which means the decisions and plans on economic and social development made by the Central Committee must be implemented, and all the tasks and targets it has set should be attained. Regions hard-hit by novel coronavirus should focus their energy on fighting the disease, and other regions should make coordinated efforts to advance reform, development, and stability while carrying out prevention and control, with a special focus on the key tasks involved in securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society, and making the final push in the fight against poverty. We must not hold off or let up in our pursuit of these objectives.
The novel coronavirus has already produced macroeconomic effects, which have dealt a particularly heavy blow to some parts of the service sector during the Spring Festival holiday. The impact on the economy will continue, mainly in the form of greater difficulties for industrial enterprises, especially small and medium ones, in their production and business operations, delays for investment projects, suppressed economic and trade activity both at home and further afield, and mounting pressure on employment. We must be fully aware of these problems and their implications and mount an effective response to deal with them.
We must, first and foremost, reinforce confidence and not be intimidated by problems or difficulties. I have said on many occasions that China is a big country with great resilience, potential, and room to manoeuver. We need to monitor economic performance closely, focusing on shocks and impacts caused by the epidemic, ensure stable employment, a stable financial sector, stable foreign trade, stable foreign investment, stable investment and stable expectations, and prepare ourselves for difficult and complex situations.
First, we will encourage enterprises to resume work and production.
On the condition of ensuring effective epidemic control, we will fully support and facilitate the resumption of operations by producers and manufacturers in all sectors, and keep industrial chains generally stable. We will increase financial support for enterprises to meet their reasonable funding needs and prevent breaks in the capital chain. In particular, special preferential policies on loan interest rates and terms should be introduced for producers of important supplies and businesses hit hard by the epidemic. We should provide stronger labor support so enterprises can resume production, making arrangements for rural migrant workers employed in key industries to return to work as soon as possible, taking full advantage of policies designed to assist enterprises and stabilize employment, and helping enterprises cope with labor shortages and high labor costs. We must make every effort to ensure that the enterprise workforce is stable.
Second, we will push forward the launch of major projects.
It is important to choose the right projects and make sure investments are targeted and effective. We should make the most of the golden period following the Spring Festival to begin work on new investment projects and vigorously push forward projects already under construction. We will adjust and improve the composition of investment, weighting central government budgetary investment toward emergency medical treatment facilities, isolation facilities, and other projects urgently needed for infectious disease control in regions hit hard by the epidemic. We will focus on breaking the remaining strongholds in the battle against poverty, and intensify our efforts to improve the living environment and public health system in rural areas. These efforts should be aligned with the rural revitalization strategy, and center on disease prevention and control. We will strengthen land, funding, and energy support for major projects, especially manufacturing projects, to ensure construction begins on schedule.
Third, we will work hard to keep consumer spending stable.
Increasing consumption is an important measure for cushioning the impact of the outbreak on the economy. We will work to quickly unlock the potential of emerging consumption, expand applications of 5G technology to stimulate consumption on 5G mobile phones and other terminals, and spur spending on e-commerce, e-governance, online education, and online entertainment. Efforts will be made to better meet people’s needs for a healthy life. Taking the epidemic response effort as an opportunity, we will continue to cultivate healthy living habits among our people, encourage enterprises to increase the supply of relevant products and services, and expand production and sales of green foods, medicines, hygiene products, and fitness equipment. Meanwhile, we will keep consumption of cars and other big-ticket items stable. Regions that impose limits on auto purchases are encouraged to raise their license plate quotas as appropriate to boost spending on automobiles and related products.
Fourth, we will improve China’s governance capacity and competence.
This epidemic is a major test of China’s system and capacity for governance. We must make sure that we sum up our experiences and draw lessons from them. In addressing the areas of weakness and deficiencies exposed by the epidemic response, we will improve our emergency management system and raise our capacity for handling urgent, difficult, dangerous, and heavy tasks. This outbreak has shone a light on weak links and blind spots in urban environmental governance. We need to conduct an extensive overhaul in this area, and shore up deficiencies in public health.
We have known about the huge risks of consuming wild animals for a long time now. Yet it remains big business, and poses a major risk to public health and safety. There will be no more indifference! I’ve already given instructions on this issue. Relevant departments need to strengthen law enforcement and market regulation, shut illegal wildlife markets, and crack down on illegal wildlife trade, and eradicate the practice of consuming wild animals to control major public health risks at their source. We need to strengthen legislative work, reviewing amendments to the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, and other laws and regulations, and moving faster to formulate a law on biosecurity. The outbreak has exposed the severe shortage of key supplies for epidemic prevention in the national reserves, such as protective garments. As there may be similar problems for other supplies, we need to undertake an overhaul of the reserve system to identify deficiencies, and properly adjust the category, quantity, and composition of state reserves to improve efficiency. We should also optimize the regional distribution of production capacity for key supplies, so that they can be available and easily accessible at crucial moments.
Finally, I would like to stress the fact that pointless formalities and excessive bureaucracy have emerged in prevention and control work in some places. Primary-level officials are reporting that the most typical example is the need to repeatedly submit various forms. In some places, city and county health bureaus, emergency management bureaus, government offices, Party committee offices, women’s federations, education bureaus, bureaus of agriculture and rural areas, and so on, insist on issuing one or more forms each, which are almost identical in content, and all are demanding that primary-level officials complete and return these forms as quickly as possible. However, there is not one document or one department to help villages and towns resolve their most urgent needs, even if it is just a mask or a bottle of disinfectant. There are also some officials who are working in a superficial way and are not fully invested in frontline prevention and control efforts, so they have nothing to say about the basic situation on the ground when asked. The more dangerous the situation, the more necessary it is for those in charge to remain calm and exercise unified management. We should be letting primary-level officials devote more of their energy to the fight on the frontline, rather than weighing them down and draining their energy with pointless formalities and excessive bureaucracy. We need to assess and judge officials based on the practical things they’ve done. Any officials who fail to take action or act irresponsibly, who show lacking effort or commitment, or who are incompetent or incapable of doing their jobs must be promptly held to account, and those with serious problems should be immediately removed from their posts.