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China says COVID-19 epidemic has 'basically' ended

Officials claim 'major decisive victory' over virus although there are still cases

Job seekers attend a careers fair in Beijing last week, as authorities claim victory over COVID-19.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Health authorities in China said on Thursday the country's COVID-19 epidemic has "basically" ended, but it is not completely over as it found seven imported cases of the highly transmissible XBB.1.5 variant since Jan. 8.

Officials, speaking at a news event with several departments attending, said China's "major decisive victory" over COVID has set an example for populous nations in prevention and control.

Last week, China's top leaders declared a "decisive victory" over COVID, claiming the world's lowest fatality rate, although experts questioned data as the virus surged across the country recently after largely being kept at bay for three years.

The country strengthened its health care system in anticipation of the virus spreading to rural areas. Officials said at the press briefing on Thursday critical care beds had expanded to 404,000 from 198,000.

Health officials and experts were also monitoring the XBB.1.5 subvariant of omicron for months. On Jan. 4, data had showed no new variant was found in the country.

Officials said on Thursday one local case of the variant was linked with an imported case on Feb. 3.

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