A technician checks solar panels at a reservoir in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province. The panels have been installed as part of a project to help local fishermen escape from poverty. HE JIANGHUA/FOR CHINA DAILY Significant progress made in challenging year Editor's note: COVID-19 has posed challenges to many aspects of social development and people's lives. In a series of reports titled "Fighting the Pandemic: 2020 in Review", we look at achievements in different fields. This is the first part of the series. This year, the authorities have raced to erase the last traces of absolute poverty on the Chinese mainland. Last month, the central government announced that the country no longer had any impoverished counties. Just five years ago, the number of such counties stood at 832. The achievement is testimony to the success of a campaign that has been stepped up under President Xi Jinping's leadership. However, despite the progress made, the nation has yet to announce that 98 million farmers who were below the poverty line in 2012 have all escaped from penury. The year began with the COVID-19 outbreak, which in January triggered stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and a sweeping ban on the wildlife trade. The measures were aimed at halting the spread of the then-little-known novel coronavirus, which was suspected to have jumped to humans from animals such as bats and bamboo rats. Although the measures proved effective, the epidemic control policies that were introduced had significant side effects. Tens of millions of migrant workers, farmers and animal breeders in rural areas found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy in the early days of the outbreak due to lost jobs and business opportunities. The disease also triggered a temporary surge in food prices and threatened to reverse the years long, top-down drive to help poor farmers with vocational training sessions, easily obtainable loans, low-cost healthcare and other tailor-made aid programs. It also raised concerns that the nation's goal to banish domestic poverty by the end of this month would be scrapped. On March 6, the central authorities said the country remained on course to end poverty, despite the number of locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 each day remaining in double figures. Addressing a symposium, President Xi said lifting all rural residents living below the poverty line out of penury by the end of this year was a solemn promise made by the CPC Central Committee, and it must be fulfilled on time. He added that Party committees and governments at all levels should advance the fight against poverty with greater determination and intensity. They should overcome the impact of COVID-19 to clinch a complete victory in eradicating poverty in a cause of tremendous importance both for the Chinese nation and humanity, he said.