China to maintain zero-COVID policy

China will stay the course on coranavirus restrictions and stick to its zero-COVID policy, health officials said on Saturday amid fresh outbreaks of the virus in the country.

In a briefing, Hu Xiang from the National Health Commission’s disease prevention and control bureau, said that Beijing’s rigorous containment measures, including lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing, were “completely correct” and “the most economical and effective,” according to a report by Reuters news agency. Health officials said that, however, the measures should be fine-tuned and tweaked to better help vulnerable people, according to reports.

The statement will put a damper on expectations that China might follow most Asian countries in easing its COVID policies, amid recent reports by Bloomberg that Beijing is making preparations to scrap penalties for airlines bringing COVID cases into the country.

Asked whether a policy change is to be expected in the near term, Hu said that China would “adhere to the principle of putting people and lives first, and the broader strategy of preventing imports from outside and internal rebounds.”