BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Members of the State Council, China's cabinet, faced questions on Thursday at a legislative session on the prevention and control of infectious diseases, a move to calm public concerns and improve supervision of the government.
Presided over by Zhang Dejiang, chair of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the session was the first of its kind since the committee was formed in March.
Zhang asked members of the committee to improve quality and efficiency of the session by looking for contradictory responses and asking for confirmation if they had any doubts over what they heard.
He asked them to be objective and scientific in their questioning and reasoning and to raise issues of most concern to society as a whole.
An interactivity and transparent meeting would improve everyone's involvement and produce more valuable outcomes, Zhang said.
Senior officials from 15 ministries and departments including health and family planning; development and reform; education; public security; finance; environmental protection; water resources and agriculture attended the session in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to listen to suggestions and respond to questions and criticism from lawmakers.
Such procedures - questions and criticisms on matters of widespread public concern - are one of the means by which the NPC oversees the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.
While responding questioning on the prevention of tuberculosis, Li Bin, head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said the central government had used special funds to help more than 10 million tuberculosis patients since 2004, providing free diagnose and medication.
Tuberculosis is one of the most serious threats to public health, with about one million new cases confirmed every year.
Thanks to better diagnosis, treatment and management, over the past 10 years more than 90 percent of patients have recovered, Li said.
China faces challenges of prevention and control of infectious diseases due to a rise of emerging infections and mass migration.
Threats of well established infectious diseases remain while new ones emerge continuously. China has been hit by one new disease every one or two years over the past decade. Mass migration and personnel exchanges for international trade have also led to difficulties in disease prevention and control, she said.
To curb cross-border infection, China has established an early-warning system to assess international infectious disease risks and a mechanism for disease surveillance at borders, said Zhi Shuping, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Surveillance stations have been set up in 285 ports open to foreign travelers and 168 healthcare centers for international travel, Zhi said, but he admitted risks remain in some temporary and seasonal ports due to lack of facilities and staff.
While answering inquiries on safe drinking water, an important measure to curb infectious disease, officials said China will ensure safe water by the year 2015 in all rural areas, where it still remains unaccessible to more than 100 million people. Safe drinking water has four standard indicators: quality, quantity, convenience, and assurance.
At the end of 2012, 298 million people in rural areas were suffering from poor access to safe drinking water, but by the end of this year, 63 percent of them will have safe water, said Li Guoying, vice minister of water resources.
The problem for the remaining 110 million people, including 15 million students and teachers in rural areas, will be solved in the following two years, he said.
Officials from economic planning, financial and civil affairs authorities pledged to help the underdeveloped western region to combat epidemics.
The government will also strengthen monitoring and management of the poultry market to prevent and control bird flu which has been a continuous problem.
Information of preventing infectious diseases will be promoted through the media and schools, officials said.