President Xi finally admits the mistakes of China's disastrous Zero Covid policy trends now
China's president Xi Jinping has finally admitted the mistakes of his draconian Zero Covid policy which failed to contain the virus and sparked the country's first widespread mass protests in decades.
The premier acknowledged 'unprecedented difficulties and challenges' in his New Year's Eve address to the nation, and said it was 'only natural' that his harsh lockdown measures were met with resistance.
After the huge unrest, Xi dropped the Zero Covid measures on December 7 but his new strategy of living with the virus has caused infections to skyrocket, with infections currently peaking in Beijing.
In the first 20 days of December, the government's top health authority estimates a staggering 248 million people - equivalent to 18 per cent of the population - contracted the virus.
An elderly patient is pushed along a corridor of the emergency ward at a hospital in Beijing, where Covid infections are peaking
Hospitals have been rammed with patients while crematoriums have been struggling to cope with the death surge, despite loyalist officials claiming only one death was recorded today.
In his address, Xi broke his silence on his sudden policy pivot last month that freed millions from virtual house arrest, mandatory testing, closed borders and quarantine camps.
He said China is now in a new phase of Covid control which is 'optimised' to protect lives and the economy.
He said: 'Since Covid-19 struck, we have put the people first and put life first all along.
'With extraordinary efforts, we have prevailed over unprecedented difficulties and challenges, and it has not been an easy journey for anyone.
The premier acknowledged 'unprecedented difficulties and challenges' in his New Year's Eve address to the nation
A medical worker in a protective suit registers information for a patient at the entrance to the fever clinic of the Central Hospital of Wuhan
Police guard an area to avoid mass gatherings during New Year's Eve celebrations in Wuhan
'We have now entered a new phase of Covid response where tough challenges remain.'
He added: 'What matters is that we build consensus through communication and consultation.
'Let's make an extra effort to pull through as perseverance and solidarity mean victory.'
The speech was a major shift from the celebratory tone in October when he secured a third term in power at his party congress.
Now, the country could see up to 25,000 deaths a day from the virus in January, research firm Airfinity Ltd said.
About 9,000 people in China are probably dying each day while cumulative deaths since December 1 have probably reached 100,000, with infections at 18.6 million, they said.
Airfinity, which is based in Britain, expects China's cases to reach their first peak on January 13 with 3.7 million daily infections.