Press conference on epidemic prevention and control updates, protection and caring for medical staff

A press conference was held Friday afternoon to introduce the latest situation on the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially measures to improve protection and caring for medical staff. February 15, 2020

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to the press conference held by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council. Today, we have invited Mr. Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission; Mr. Zhang Yiquan, vice minister of human resources and social security; and Mr. Ou Wenhan, assistant minister of finance.

They will introduce the latest situation on the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially measures to improve protection and care for medical staff. They will also answer your questions.

First, I will give the floor to Mr. Zeng.

Zeng Yixin:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. We need to express respect and gratitude to the medical personnel in the frontline, and, more importantly, improve their care. The speakers today, including myself, will introduce related measures.

Zeng Yixin:

Since the viral outbreak, Chinese medical staff have actively responded to the call of the CPC Central Committee, bravely fighting in the frontline despite the obvious difficulties and heedless of their own safety. They have made a significant contribution to the epidemic prevention and control, and implemented the noble spirit of "safeguarding lives, healing the sick and rescuing the dying with great dedication and boundless love." Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, has said that China deserves the international community's gratitude and respect for having taken very serious measures to contain the outbreak. Guided by the principle of "coordinating efforts all over the country as on a single chessboard," we are mobilizing resources throughout China's health system to fight the outbreak, and deploying our entire medical resources nationwide to aid epidemic prevention and control in Wuhan and other hard-hit places.

With epidemic prevention and control entering a critical stage, improving protection and care for medical staff is essential for winning the battle against the new virus. General Secretary Xi Jinping has issued instructions on different occasions, urging more care for frontline medical personnel. During an inspection in Beijing on Feb. 10, General Secretary Xi ordered CPC committees and governments at all levels to improve their care of medical staff, publicize the deeds of outstanding figures, help them solve problems, offer them humanistic care, as well as ensuring their safety and well-being.

On Feb. 11, the General Office of the State Council issued a circular on the measures to improve working conditions for frontline medical personnel, and ensure their physical and mental health. The circular, jointly formulated by the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Ministry of Finance, proposed measures in seven respects.

First, enhancing working and resting conditions for medical staff. Specific measures include improving the equipment and facilities able to protect medical staff from occupational exposure, renovating doctors' offices, duty rooms and lounges, and offering better logistics services for medical workers to ensure they have enough sleep and food.

Second, maintaining physical and mental health of medical staff. Specially, reasonable work schedules are required for medical personnel. For those who cannot take any vacation due to the epidemic prevention and control tasks, their medical and health institutions should enable them to go on holidays before others after they finish their tasks. Streamlined recruitment procedures are allowed for medical and health institutions in urgent need of medical workers and other personnel. Individual protection should be strengthened and health examinations organized for medical staff to minimize hospital-acquired infections. Psychological intervention and counseling should be improved to reduce the psychological pressure of medical personnel.

Third, we will work to ensure the delivery of benefits to medical staff. Medical workers and other personnel fighting at the front lines of the epidemic prevention and control work will receive temporary subsidies. For medical and health institutions facing weighty tasks and high risks in the fight against the epidemic, we will increase their total amount of one-time performance-based pay, which should be exempt from individual income tax. Also, we will open fast-track channels for medical staff for the identification of work-related injuries.

Fourth, subsidies for epidemic prevention workers should be raised. We will issue new policies to increase subsidies, especially for personnel participating in the prevention and control of the COVID-19, and ensure that subsidies are paid in time and in full.

Fifth, we seek improved humanistic care for medical staff. We will mobilize and organize non-governmental participants in providing consolation for front-line medical workers, build up channels of communication between front-line medical staff and their families, and provide pair-up assistance to those families in financial difficulty.

Sixth, a safer working environment will be created for medical staff. We will strictly implement various security measures, deploy more policemen, and improve the relevant accountability mechanism. Those who discriminate against or isolate front-line medical workers and their families must be criticized and educated, and even punished in accordance with the law in serious cases. All assaults on medical staff will be investigated and punished severely in accordance with the law.

Seventh, we will advocate a high degree of professionalism by rewarding role models. By timely rewarding and honoring outstanding professionals in combating the virus, we will enhance our confidence and pool our strengths for the epidemic prevention and control work.

Zeng Yixin:

Next, we will fully implement the decisions and deployment of the Party Central Committee and the State Council. Together with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant departments, we will spare no effort to improve working conditions for front-line medical workers, care for their physical and mental health, safeguard their rights and interests, and provide a strong guarantee for winning the battle against the epidemic. Thank you.

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