Are there questions from the foreign media?
Thank you. Two questions from AFP. The first is about transport restrictions. Currently a number of cities have announced a variety of restrictions on inter-provincial buses and public transport. And of course, Wuhan now is under effective quarantine. So, the question is, will these restrictions expand to the whole country? The second question is about the severity of the new coronavirus epidemic. Will the novel coronavirus epidemic be more severe than SARS in terms of its death toll and the number people affected? Thank you very much.
Thank you for your two questions. Let's give the floor to Mr. Li Bin.
Thank you. Your concerns in fact relate to the measures taken currently, of which transportation-related management is one aspect. All the measures taken are constantly adjusted based on the epidemic situation, and these adjustments are made in accordance with our laws and regulations. The measures taken are by far the strictest, and are based on the actual past experience both internationally and domestically in fighting epidemics. It is estimated by experts that, if fully implemented, these measures will be able to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, weaken the intensity of its spread, and delay the arrival of the epidemic peak, so as to give us more time for more effective prevention and control during the next stage.
In addition, your second question regarding the virus also relates to the further development of this epidemic, and we place great importance on it. As we have very limited knowledge of this new epidemic, it is not yet clear how it will evolve and the development of the epidemic is not under our control. Nevertheless, we will continue to adjust our policies and improve the measures in accordance with the ongoing epidemic situation, implementing every requirement to prevent and control this new virus. In this way, we will be fully prepared and will build our capacity to deal with the changing epidemic situation, thereby effectively preventing and controlling it.
I would like to add a few words to your question. As transportation is a potential way of spreading the virus, it is therefore necessary to put transport restrictions in some regions and cities in order to effectively cut off the transmission of the virus.
As you have noticed, Beijing suspended the operation of long-distance buses yesterday. In the past, long-distance buses departing from or arriving at Beijing were only suspended from the first to the fourth day of the first lunar month, and would start operations on the fifth day. But this year the starting date of operation is yet to be determined. Also, the metro line from Shanghai to Suzhou was suspended from 1 p.m. this afternoon. All these measures aim to cut off the transmission of the virus. We believe that these measures are effective. Various measures will be adapted by the local governments and party committees in accordance to the local conditions.
Apart from what has been mentioned, China's transport departments have implemented ventilation and sterilization measures on long-distance passenger buses, passenger aircraft and railway trains. We have also established observation stations at bus and railway stations as well as flight terminals. Those with abnormal body temperatures will be kept in observation room for further monitoring, and if necessary, could be referred to health departments, which will take further appropriate action.
I want to point out that although some cities have implemented control measures, the general day-to-day operation in cities is still guaranteed. This includes, within reason, residents' travel as well as the transportation of important goods. The transportation of people's daily supplies will also be prioritized.
To reduce passenger flows, it's known that railway, civil aviation and road traffic departments have refunded the fares for cancelled tickets. Originally this was just for trips to and from Wuhan, but has now expanded to the whole country. This shows the government's deep concern for the people's travel, health and safety. Thank you.
Since the epidemic broke out, scientists, especially virologists in China have worked hard to learn more about the virus. They successfully extracted the novel coronavirus from a sample given by the patient and discovered the pathogen one week after the outbreak. Using gene sequencing, the novel coronavirus, a new member of the coronavirus group, is a different strain compared with SARS and MERS. By consulting clinical epidemiology materials, it is inferred that the virus was probably transmitted from wild animals to people in its initial phase, but has since adapted to the human body and now entered into the phase of people-to-people transmission. Looking at the clinical cases, we can see that some are severe and some are mild, and the virus can now spread among people. According to recent clinical data, the transmission capacity of the virus has increased and its toxicity and virulence need to be further analyzed based on more clinical data.
Currently, the transmission speed of the epidemic is fast, which poses challenges and puts pressure on prevention and control work. Experts predict that the epidemic has entered a complex and severe phase and the preventive measures implemented in Wuhan play an important role in controlling the epidemic. Looking at it on a national scale, the epidemic is still in the early stage. Now stricter measures have been implemented across China which should be able to control the epidemic at a lower cost and faster speed to achieve the final victory of containing the virus.