SCIO briefing on the provision of key medical supplies and daily necessities for epidemic prevention and control

A press conference was held on Monday morning to give details on the provision of key medical supplies and daily necessities for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak. February 4, 2020

Lianhe Zaobao:

I have two questions. First, there are some reports saying that materials in Hubei province – especially medical supplies at the frontline – are in serious shortage. Some people have reflected that because of a shortage of test reagents, a number of suspected novel coronavirus cases cannot be confirmed at the earliest possible time. Could you give us more information about the supply of materials at the frontline? Is the situation serious? Are the material access channels smooth? Second, we are all being told to wear face masks, but we have heard that all over the country it is difficult to purchase masks. Could you tell us when this issue will be resolved? Thank you.

Tian Yulong:

Thank you for your questions. Regarding your first question, generally speaking, the situation of material shortages in Hubei has been significantly alleviated, and we define the current stage as "tightly balanced." Just now, I spoke about the supply of materials; we are resuming work and production, but it will still take some time to restore full production capacity.

Here is some data for you. By 24:00 on Feb. 2, we have coordinated domestic medical supply companies to send a total of 154,500 protective suits to Hubei province, of which 131,200 have arrived. In addition, 133,600 N95 face masks have been delivered. According to new division of labor, the National Development and Reform Commission will guide the overall work regarding face masks, and we will actively cooperate with them. Up to now, 130,000 N95 face masks have arrived. As for the question of face masks, Mr. Lian will give you more information later. So far, 82 fully automatic infrared monitors have been sent to Hubei, of which 62 have arrived.

What I want to stress here is that the production capacity in Hubei province has also recovered very quickly, especially concerning medical supplies such as protective suits and goggles. Since Hubei is an important production base for medical supplies in China, the recovery of capacity there will definitely alleviate the shortage of supplies on the frontline. However, the supply of protective suits and N95 face masks are still in a "tightly balanced" stage. Under the deployment of the State Council, the supply connection between Hubei and other provincial regions will remain close and precise.

Regarding your question about test reagents, the nucleic acid test is a mature testing measure for infectious diseases: hospitals and the health system purchase the test reagents directly from authorized enterprises. Theoretically speaking, there is no supply shortage of test reagent kits; but due to limited time and production resumption, we have previously faced some difficulties. However, at present, production capacity has recovered. As of Jan. 21, daily production had reached 773,000, which is 40 times the number of suspected cases, and can generally meet the needs. Since the recovered production capacity at present only accounts for 60%-70% of the total capacity, our main work in the future will still focus on resuming production.

As for your second question, the total production capacity of face masks in China has reached over 20 million per day, which is the highest of any country in the world. Overall, it will still take some time to recover the production capacity for N95 and surgical masks. Mr. Lian will provide you with more information. Thank you.

Lian Weiliang:

I would like to share more information about the supply of medical face masks. The shortage of some medical resources has triggered huge public concern and the Party Central Committee and the State Council places great importance on the issue. General Secretary Xi Jinping has given important instructions on various occasions. The day before yesterday, Premier Li Keqiang inspected a national coordination center for key medical supplies used in epidemic prevention and control and helped resolve their most urgent problems. Mr. Tian just said that the National Development and Reform Commission is now working with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to coordinate the allocation of medical face masks. As a result of this, the allocation and availability of medical resources has more than doubled in the past two days.

To address the lack of face masks, we will step up our efforts in two aspects. First, increasing supply is a fundamental solution. Second, we should call for the scientific and rational use of face masks. To increase supply, we are now devoting all our efforts, day and night, to expand production capacity and increase production. As a result, important progress has been made. For example, N95 masks for medical protective purpose are in high demand. Many tend to consider the worst-case scenario and keep in reserve more masks than they can actually consume. Given that, by last night we managed to more than double our production capacity by preparing raw materials and starting to increase production and supply. Many enterprises worry about overcapacity in the future, so we have made it clear that the government will purchase and stockpile any excess products after the epidemic ends. With that in mind, enterprises can run now at full capacity as long as they meet standards. Also, more importance should be attached to the scientific and rational use of face masks. We call on the public to use face masks of different functions according to their specific needs, and avoid overuse. We do not encourage people to use valuable medical supplies for only general protective purposes. In this regard, we call on the press to help guide the public based on expert advice. As long as all parties work together, we will soon solve this problem.

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