Chinese vice premier urges improvements in COVID measures as pathogenicity weakens

COVID-19 outbreak in Guangzhou

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan called for further efforts to improve COVID-19 prevention and control measures, urging "optimisation" of testing, treatment and quarantine policies, as the virus weakens in pathogenicity, according to state media.

Her remarks come as cities across China take a more targeted approach to tackle outbreaks, fine-tuning 20 new measures released by the government almost three weeks ago.

"The country is facing a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens, more people are vaccinated and experience in containing the virus is accumulated," she said on Wednesday according to Xinhua.

Sun said the government has "always put people's health and safety first, and effectively dealt with the uncertainties of the COVID-19 situation with a consistent strategy and flexible measures to fight the virus, according to state media.

She also said the country needs to improve immunization of the entire population. The government recently announced that it would increase vaccine rates for its elderly and children, the most vulnerable of its population.

The country is also taking a more "humane approach" to tackling infection outbreaks.

Guangdong's provincial capital of Guangzhou, where riots and dispruptions recently made headlines, lead the way for the changes, easing restrictions and also allowing close contacts of COVID cases to quarantine at home, according to the government and local media.

The cities of Chongqing and Dongguan, also in Guangdong, announced that close contacts of infected patients can also home quarantine.

One district in the Inner Mongolia city of Ordos temporarily halted all COVID testing on Thursday due to the cold weather, with state media saying the move demonstrates the "humane" side of epidemic control.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Michael Perry)