President Xi Jinping has spoken out for the first time on China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai , saying it “will stand the test of time” and pledged to fight any attempt to “distort, question and challenge” the country’s policies. Chairing the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee meeting, the highest decision-making body in China, Xi gave a speech telling officials and party cadres to stand firm and not waver. He said China will prevail in the fight against Covid-19 in Shanghai just as it did in Wuhan, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday night. Shanghai’s 25 million residents have been locked down for more than a month amid a surge in cases, becoming the epicentre of China’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since it first began two years ago. The local authorities in Beijing have closed public transport routes, told people to work from home and ordered mass testing in an effort to stop the capital suffering the same fate. Nearly 15m people dead from or due to Covid in two years: WHO China is one of the few countries to have maintained a version of the zero-Covid policy as most of the world has begun to live with the virus. While the policy helped China keep its caseload down early in the pandemic, it has been less effective against the highly transmissible but less deadly Omicron variant. “We must be firm in overcoming thoughts of indifference and self-righteous thinking, and underestimating the epidemic,” a statement issued after the meeting said. “We must keep a clear head and unwaveringly adhere to the general policy of dynamic zero-Covid. We must struggle against speech and acts that distort, question or reject our country’s anti-epidemic guidelines and policy.” The statement said Covid-19 cases were still at a high level and the virus was still mutating, suggesting that there was “great uncertainty” in how the pandemic would develop. “China is a country with a large population and a large ageing population,” it said. “With regional development unbalanced and medical resources lacking, relaxing control measures will cause a large outbreak, many cases of serious illness and deaths. Socio-economic development and the health and safety of people will be seriously affected.” China’s top leadership has repeatedly said it will press on with its dynamic zero-Covid policy , which seeks to stamp out infections whenever they arise, but the meeting on Thursday was the first that discussed Shanghai’s outbreak. China’s leaders are also keen to keep Covid-19 at bay in the build-up to the party congress later this year, where Xi is expected to gain an unprecedented third term. Chinese capital issues work from home orders to stem Covid-19 outbreak But the Shanghai lockdown has prompted a public outcry as residents complained of food shortages, difficulties in gaining medical treatment and fences being set up outside residential buildings to stop residents leaving. Nearly 600,000 people in the city have been tested positive since March and close to 19 million were still under lockdown on Thursday. After more than a month of being forced to stay at home, cases have begun to fall. The statement said “the great defensive battle of Shanghai” had gained some early results. It also said: “Party committees and governments at all levels and all sectors of society should align their thoughts and actions to the party Central Committee’s strategy. They must consciously maintain a high consistency with the Central Committee in ideology, politics and action.” The read-out for the meeting also said the Politburo Standing Committee studied “other matters” – usually a veiled reference to potential personnel changes. The future of Shanghai’s party chief Li Qiang, a member of the wider Politburo, has been in doubt since the city, China’s richest and considered to be one of its best governed, was hit by a surge in cases.