BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- President Xi Jinping on Wednesday extended festive greetings to all Chinese people when he held virtual talks in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing with the general public from across the country ahead of the Spring Festival.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, spoke with medical workers at a hospital, senior citizens in a welfare home, workers on an outlying oilfield, travelers and staff members at a high-speed railway station, vendors and customers at a wholesale market, and people in an ethnic minority village via video link.
Xi wished Chinese people of all ethnic groups healthy and happy lives in the Year of the Rabbit and expressed his hope that the country will enjoy prosperity and the people live in a safe and peaceful nation.
This year's Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year, falls on Jan. 22.
Li Qiang, Cai Qi and Ding Xuexiang -- who are members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee -- were also present during the virtual talks.
Speaking with medical workers and an elderly patient at the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Xi said that facing this latest wave of COVID-19 infections, medical workers have worked long hours under heavy pressure and with an excessive workload to treat patients.
Acknowledging their great contributions to protecting people's lives and health, Xi extended festive greetings to medical workers across the country.
"We have now entered a new phase of COVID-19 response. Tough challenges remain, but the light of hope is right in front of us. Perseverance means victory," he said.
The country had made "the right choice" to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic with strict measures over the past nearly three years, Xi said, adding that China has thus withstood several rounds of outbreaks of virus mutations.
China has lowered the proportion of severe cases and the case fatality rate to the greatest extent possible, protected people's lives and health, and bought precious time for the later moves to optimize response and downgrade the management of COVID-19, Xi said.
The focus of the current COVID-19 response has shifted from infection prevention to medical treatment, with protecting people's health and preventing severe cases being the priority, said Xi, noting that hospitals are now undertaking more arduous tasks.
Xi demanded efforts to increase medical resources and the supply of medical services and drugs, and to prepare for medical treatment of severe cases in particular.
While talking via video link with older people and staffers at a welfare home in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province, on the same day, Xi said stricter epidemic prevention and health management measures should be taken at nursing homes and welfare facilities to prevent clusters of infection, as older people are the top priority in the current COVID-19 response stage.
As China's population aging is becoming more prominent, Xi called for the proactive development of elderly care programs and industries, state-run elderly care institutions and more affordable elderly care services.
Special efforts should be made to guarantee the provision of elderly care services for those most in need, including people with financial difficulties, of advanced age or unable to care for themselves, he said.
During another virtual talk, Xi stressed the importance of stable energy supply and price.
"Energy security concerns the overall economic and social development of our country. It is one of the most important security issues," Xi told employees of the Tarim oilfield in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Noting that winter is the peak season for energy use in China, Xi said that no efforts should be spared to ensure the supply of coal, electricity, petroleum and natural gas, and to keep their prices stable.
He stressed the importance of being fully prepared to deal with possible extreme cold waves, guaranteeing energy supply and ensuring people stay warm this winter.
Noting the important role of state-owned enterprises directly under the central government, Xi asked them to make all-out efforts to increase output and ensure supply to meet the energy consumption needs of economic and social development.
Located in the Taklimakan Desert, Xinjiang, the Tarim oilfield of the China National Petroleum Corporation is a major natural gas source for the country's West-to-East gas pipelines. It provides natural gas for residents in southern Xinjiang and provinces, regions and municipalities along the pipelines.
Through video link, Xi extended his festival greetings to passenger railway staff at Zhengzhou East Station -- one of China's largest high-speed railway stations -- in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, and talked with passengers on the station platform.
He asked the passengers if they were heading back home for family reunions or out traveling and reminded them of safety awareness during their trips.
Xi underscored the importance of the Spring Festival travel to people's immediate interests, economic development, and social stability.
He said this year's Spring Festival travel rush is the first after the country entered a new phase of COVID response, with a major recovery of passenger flows. He urged efforts to ensure safe and sound trips for the people and smooth and orderly flows of essential supplies.
Xi called for efforts to strengthen the monitoring and early warning of extreme weather conditions and carry out safety overhauls to prevent major safety accidents.
Xi demanded strict implementation of anti-COVID measures to reduce infection risks to the minimum.
Xi also extended his holiday greetings to vendors and customers at the Xinfadi wholesale market, a major fresh-produce marketplace in Beijing.
To his delight, Xi heard that the food price was stable and the provision of various produce was sufficient.
Xi urged the wholesale market to expand its suppliers and the diversity of products, maintain good quality, and step up food safety examination and market management.
Xi stressed redoubled efforts to ensure sound production, sale, and supply of essential commodities such as grain, edible oil, meat, eggs, milk, fruits, and vegetables.
A smooth delivery, sufficient and diversified provisions, and the stable market price of these commodities should be guaranteed during the holiday so that people can have a happy and sound Chinese New Year, Xi said.
Speaking with villagers and tourists in Shiyi Village in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Xi called on them to strive for common prosperity to make their lives better.
Shiyi Village is one of the villages rebuilt after being heavily stricken by the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.
Xi extended festive greetings to the villagers and tourists, and he also sent Spring Festival wishes to all rural residents across China and those working hard on the frontline in the country's rural revitalization cause.
He asked local officials and tourists about the village's tourism. Hearing positive feedback, Xi stressed the role of agricultural specialties and rural tourism in the rural revitalization of the new era.
Xi said he was primarily concerned about rural areas and rural residents after the country adjusted its COVID-19 response measures.
Xi stressed efforts to improve medical care for those most vulnerable to the virus in rural areas, and ensure the health of rural residents and their normal running of work and life to the maximum extent possible.
At the end of the virtual talks, Xi delivered an important speech.
"As we greet the Spring Festival, I care more about my fellow people and officials working at the primary level," Xi said.
Xi said this year's virtual talks enabled him to speak with people from across the country. He said that he could feel the happiness and joy of the people, even from behind the screen.
"My heart is always with you all and people of all ethnic groups across the country," Xi said. "My biggest wish is that we all have a happy Spring Festival."
He ordered sound implementation of COVID response measures in the new phase and effective prevention of emergencies and accidents so that people across the country will have a joyful and safe Spring Festival.
The past year was extraordinary but not easy, Xi said. "We have overcome all kinds of difficulties and challenges, making new achievements on all fronts."
For the year ahead, Xi called for concerted efforts to make more progress and greater contributions to the country.