Hong Kong CNN  — 

China has given its most significant signal yet that it may adjust its stringent zero-Covid policy that has transformed daily life, roiled the economy – and sparked a wave of protests.

The top official in charge of China’s Covid response told health officials Wednesday that the country faced a “new stage and mission” in pandemic control.

“With the decreasing toxicity of the Omicron variant, the increasing vaccination rate and the accumulating experience of outbreak control and prevention, China’s pandemic containment faces a new stage and mission,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said Wednesday, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The remarks follow a surge in public frustration with zero-Covid and its high human cost, which erupted into unprecedented demonstrations in at least 19 cities since last Friday.

Sun – who has been the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s enforcement of the policy – made no mention of “zero-Covid,” as reported by Xinhua. Her comments came a day after a separate body of top health officials pledged to rectify some approaches to Covid control and said local governments should “respond to and resolve the reasonable demands of the masses” in a timely manner.

On Thursday, Sun reiterated the new tone, telling a health symposium in Beijing that China’s health care and disease control systems now had “effective diagnosis and treatment techniques” against the epidemic. Overall, China had “created conditions for the country to further optimize its prevention and control measures,” she said, according to state media.