SCIO briefing on efforts of the Central Guidance Team in Hubei to organize and guide epidemic control

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, to introduce the efforts being undertaken by the Central Guidance Team in Hubei to organize and guide the work related to epidemic prevention and control. February 21, 2020


The Central Guidance Team has carried out the epidemic prevention and control work on the ground since it was sent to Hubei province nearly a month ago. In the fight against the epidemic, what role has the guidance team played and what function does it serve? What measures have been taken during this period and what will it focus on next? Thank you.

Ding Xiangyang:

Following the requirements of the CPC Central Committee, the Central Guidance Team has been sent to Hubei with three main responsibilities:

First, we should guide and supervise the Hubei and Wuhan authorities in the implementation of the important instructions given by General Secretary Xi Jinping and of the decisions and work deployments made by the CPC Central Committee. We must ensure that prevention and control measures are fully implemented there in order to win the battle against the epidemic.

Second, we should guide the epidemic control work of Hubei and Wuhan. The Central Guidance Team has been sent to strengthen the epidemic prevention and control. We are helping to coordinate and solve key problems such as material allocation, medic deployment and technological support.

Third, we are conducting inspections to avoid inaction or irresponsible action by government officials. To deal with those who lack the courage or ability to take charge and fulfill their responsibilities, we urge relevant departments to investigate, rectify and deal with wrongdoings in accordance with the law and Party discipline. I think these are the three aspects in which we play our role and serve our function.

During the past 20 days or so, the Central Guidance Team, led by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, has guided the prevention and control work in Hubei and Wuhan with a focus on three main tasks and two key areas. The three main tasks include: carrying out prevention and control work by containing the epidemic at the source and blocking the transmission route of the virus; treating patients with maximum efforts; and ensuring medical supplies for medical personnel. We have pushed ahead with all three main tasks since the beginning of the epidemic outbreak, changing priorities during different periods.

As for the two key areas, the first one is Wuhan, as everyone can see. This is a source of deep concern for all Chinese people as well as the international community. Therefore, we need to make Wuhan our top priority for the prevention and control work, effectively containing the spread of the epidemic in this city. The other key area, as we all know, covers other cities in Hubei province, which suffer from fewer medical resources and facilities than Wuhan. Given that, the result would have been unbearable if a more rampant outbreak had taken place in those regions. Therefore, we have coordinated the epidemic prevention and control work during the recent period in the rest of the province, in order to prevent the specter of another Wuhan event. In particular, we have stepped up efforts in the following aspects:

First, we have stepped up efforts to prevent and control the epidemic at its source. The Central Guidance Team in Hubei has made it clear that we need to cut off every possible method and channel to prevent the virus from spreading further. We all know that however hard we have tried to prevent and control the disease from spreading, and however much we have done to treat the patients, the least costly and most effective approach and the fundamental principle above all is to quarantine the source of the infections. While the epidemic has yet to develop to a severe extent, I am afraid that many people may become disgruntled about the decisions made to quarantine infectious groups, suspend public transport operations in Wuhan and block off all contacts between the epicenter and the rest of the country. In line with the instructions made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, Sun Chunlan, the vice premier who is leading the Central Guidance Team in Hubei, made two major work arrangements upon her arrival in Wuhan on Jan. 22, or the 28th day of the 12th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. One was to, in accordance with the general secretary's instruction, block off Wuhan's transport system — or what we refer to as launching the lockdown of the city — which was an important measure to prevent the continuous outflow of local residents, and the other was to extend the Spring Festival holiday. Around the third and fourth day of Spring Festival, the Central Guidance Team in Hubei, the CPC Hubei Provincial Committee, the Hubei provincial government, the CPC Wuhan Municipal Committee and the Wuhan municipal government proposed to continue separating the source of transmission and containing the spread of the disease after they had jointly launched a comprehensive study of the epidemic. The Hubei provincial government was also asked to weigh up the feasibility of extending the holidays even longer. Then, the extra 10-day holiday was granted to Wuhan by the State Council. Those non-locals who traveled to Wuhan to visit relatives or on holiday should follow the same policy to stay here in quarantine. The extended holidays helped fortify the achievements from blocking all exits from Wuhan and launching traffic controls in the preliminary stage of the outbreak. Following the instruction of General Secretary Xi Jinping, we have implemented these measures to curb the spread of the virus. In general, these measures have played effective roles in containing the epidemic at its source.

As I said, at such a critical moment when it seemed hard to reach a consensus, we still resolved to continue making each targeted measure count, thanks to the support of the CPC Central Committee. As such, we prefer to receive complaints than more infections. 

Second, we have worked all-out to ensure the supply of commodities and funds which have been in substantial demand. Mr. Lian will later speak on the issue too. On the day the Central Guidance Team arrived in Wuhan, we found that medical necessities, especially protective suits, were in serious demand and the shortage was impeding the rescue work. I remember the demand for protective suits hovered around 50,000 per day, which was much higher than the actual supply of about 10,000 either produced in Hubei province or allocated from outside of Hubei. Understanding that the rescue work could not continue without enough protective suits, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan followed the guidance of Premier Li Keqiang and proposed that supply be guaranteed in three aspects. First, by tapping the potential of Hubei's internal production. Second, by gaining support from all over the country. And third, by supplementing the supply with imports. The Central Guidance Team, headed by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, called on a certain number of manufacturers to resume work and production as much as possible. Governments at all levels were also required to give those enterprises enough support to alleviate the temporary shortage. At that particular time, both the central and local authorities, including the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, made huge efforts to assist the province.

Third, we have strengthened efforts to treat confirmed patients. According to the situation of the new confirmed cases in Wuhan, we can say that the epidemic there became a pandemic as of Jan. 27, as it developed from an epidemic in a single place, then to some areas, and finally into a large-scale outbreak over multiple areas. Local governments were confronted with huge challenges, as large numbers of patients could not be admitted to hospitals due to a severe shortage of hospital beds. We were very concerned about this situation. Against this backdrop, the Central Guidance Team in Hubei organized multiple forces to help Wuhan treat patients as quickly as possible. Eight medical teams were deployed to the city from across the country. We added the capacity of the Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Hospital and Renmin Hospital. We also built the Leishenshan and Huoshenshan hospitals to treat critically ill patients. Then, the treatment work was carried out in terms of different categories, levels and tiers. Our focus was on the management of patients confirmed or suspected to be infected with the virus, patients exhibiting fever, as well as close contacts of confirmed cases, as the treatment methods and quarantine measures for these four groups of people are different, and requirements also differ. In addition, we adopted integrated treatment of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine, deploying some TCM experts to Wuhan to join the fight against the epidemic. Regarding this aspect, Ms. Yu will provide a detailed introduction later. 

The Central Guidance Team proposed the building of makeshift hospitals. Currently, a total of 11 makeshift hospitals and more than 400 quarantine sites have been built. Why did we build the makeshift hospitals? This was due to the severe shortage of hospital beds. People may ask that since there are a lot of hospitals with a large number of beds in Wuhan and Hubei province, why could patients not be admitted to existing hospitals? This is because the requirements for infectious disease hospitals are quite different from regular ones. An infectious disease hospital must have strictly segregated "three areas and two passages" (clean area, potentially polluted area and polluted area; medics' passage and patients' passage). That is why we built the makeshift hospitals, so that patients could receive treatment from top-notch doctors. 

We implemented the instructions made by General Secretary Xi, and stepped up our efforts to fight the outbreak as of Feb. 8 or 9. Some patients either confirmed or suspected to be infected with the virus could not be admitted to hospital due to a shortage of hospital beds. These patients must receive treatment as soon as possible, otherwise, they may become new sources of infection. After becoming aware of this situation, the Central Guidance Team asked local governments to conduct general screening for the entire population of Hubei province, and to ensure that no one was left unchecked, thereby allowing every single patient to receive treatment in hospital or makeshift hospital, and bringing their close contacts under isolated observation.

Fourth, we have carried out epidemiological investigations, tracing and researching on the source of the virus, modes of transmission and the transmission mechanisms, so as to make judgements of the trend of the epidemic.

Fifth, we have established a "four parties" accountability mechanism to ensure that all fulfill their responsibilities. This is necessary for public health management, as well as a requirement from the government during this special period. First, governments at all levels must ensure that there are enough hospitals and quarantine sites in their administrative areas. Second, all relevant authorities, such as the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Ministry of Education, should fulfill their responsibilities. Third, government agencies as well as small- and medium-sized companies, should be responsible for their employees. Fourth, every individual should fulfill their own social responsibilities, taking care of their own health and that of their family members.

Going forward, we will consolidate the temporary achievements in containing the epidemic, and continue to ensure more decisive measures are adopted in both Wuhan and across Hubei province. Cutting-off sources of transmission will remain our top priority. Moreover, we will ensure treatment for patients, and further strengthen the provision of medical supplies. We will step-up efforts to ensure that all measures are implemented, the admission and cure rates increase, and infection and morality rates decrease, so as to win the battle against the epidemic and protect Wuhan and Hubei.

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