SCIO briefing on progress of Central Guidance Team in Hubei to organize and guide epidemic control and medical rescue

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Friday afternoon in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province, to introduce the progress being made by the Central Guidance Team in organizing and guiding works related to epidemic control and medical rescue in the fight against COVID-19. February 29, 2020

Xi Yanchun:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. Welcome to the press conference held by the State Council Information Office in Wuhan, Hubei province. Today, we have invited Mr. Ma Xiaowei, a member of the Central Guidance Team in Hubei, and minister of the National Health Commission (NHC); Mr. Yu Xuejun, a member of the Central Guidance Team in Hubei, and vice-minister of the NHC; Mr. Liang Wannian, head of the Chinese Expert Panel on COVID-19 Outbreak Response and Disposal of the NHC; and Ms. Jiao Yahui, deputy director of the Bureau of Medical Administration of the NHC. They will introduce the progress being made by the Central Guidance Team in organizing and guiding works related to epidemic control and medical rescue. Later, they will answer your questions. First, I'll give the floor to Mr. Ma Xiaowei.

Ma Xiaowei:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. The COVID-19 outbreak is a major public health emergency recognized as having spread fastest, caused the most extensive infection and proved the hardest to contain since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has attached great importance to the situation. General Secretary Xi Jinping is personally leading, commanding and deploying all available forces in the battle against COVID-19 outbreak. Premier Li Keqiang has inspected the control and prevention work in Wuhan. Entrusted by General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CPC Central Committee, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan has been leading the Central Guidance Team in Wuhan since Jan. 27 to resolutely implement the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee, giving top priority to epidemic prevention and control and medical treatment for everyone who becomes ill. The Central Guidance Team has conducted in-depth analysis and research accordingly throughout the decision-making process. Based on the goal of improving patient admission and recovery rates, as well as reducing infection and mortality rates, the Central Guidance Team in Hubei has made important decisions and deployments in this regard, providing strong and comprehensive guidance in regard to the prevention and control work in Wuhan city and Hubei province in general, which is now showing a growing positive trend.

In order to deal with the spread of the virus among all the communities, the Central Guidance Team urged the local authorities to carry out community-based screening and improve the capacity of the nucleic acid test for confirming the illness. Four categories of people are involved in the screening, including confirmed COVID-19 patients, suspected ones, people who have had close contact with the former two, and patients with common fever. Almost 1,000 personnel from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and relevant institutions across the country have been sent to Wuhan to conduct epidemiological investigation and carry out disease prevention and control. A total of 13 expert panels have been established on-site in Wuhan to provide guidance and conduct quick assessment accordingly. With the support from the central government, local authorities and the third-party institutions, three mobile P3 laboratories were also dispatched to the epicenter. We have organized personnel from relevant institutions and laboratories across China to provide guidance for efficiently carrying out the nucleic acid test in various cities and counties in Hubei province, carried out personnel training and strengthened quality control work. All of these activities have greatly enhanced the capacity of carrying out the nucleic acid test. The number of tests conducted per day have increased from 300 to 20,000; and instead of two days, now it only takes 4 to 6 hours to get the results. All those in need of nucleic acid test will be tested immediately.

In order to ensure there is no delay in the treatment of any patient, we have made all-round efforts to increase the number of hospital beds. We have guided the local government to transform and expand a range of designated hospitals in Wuhan for this special purpose. Within the space of a single month, hospital beds for COVID-19 patients have been increased from some 5,000 to more than 23,000, among which more than 9,000 were prepared for severely-ill patients. Thanks to the efforts of Wuhan local governments at all levels, a batch of gymnasiums, exhibition centers and training centers have been transformed into Fangcang shelter hospitals and quarantine spots, and an additional 16 of the former have now been built. At present, more than 13,000 hospital beds are available in the city, and the daily number of newly-cured and discharged novel coronavirus patients has far surpassed that of new infections.

In order to address the shortage of medical personnel and medical supplies, we have coordinated and allocated various resources from across the country. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, a total of nearly 66,000 cases have been confirmed in Hubei province, with a significant proportion of them deemed to be severe cases, which was far beyond the normal capacity of local medical services. Since the novel coronavirus is highly infectious, we can't transfer the patients to other places to help ease local pressure at source. Therefore, we have sent thousands of excellent medical personnel from all over the country to assist the efforts in Hubei. At present, more than 40,000 medical personnel formed into 330 medical teams have been transferred to the province, among them over 15,000 being professionals in departments of critical care medicine, infectious disease, respiratory medicine, circulatory medicine and anesthesiology. To address the shortage of medical equipment and supplies that existed at one time, hospitals sending medical teams to Hubei were also asked to collect medical equipment and materials including ventilators, artificial lungs and medical protective suits to support those fighting against the epidemic on the frontline. One week ahead of the national emergency medical rescue teams arriving in Wuhan, most of the medical supplies supported by their hospitals had already been transferred. This meant the rescue teams could immediately treat patients upon their arrival. This was vital because, for all the patients, every minute counts.

In order to lower the mortality rate, we have further implemented the principle of "four concentration", namely concentration of patients, specialists, resources and treatment, and strengthened our efforts to cure severely-ill patients. In Wuhan, the national medical teams have adopted a model of overall takeover, with assisting medics from the same provincial region or the same hospital taking charge of one specific department of local hospitals. The hospital beds for severe cases have been increased to 9,000, and more than 7,000 severely-ill and critical patients have been received and treated. We have set up ward inspection teams consisting of academicians and joint expert groups, revised the treatment plan six times, and implemented the system of expert consultation at all times, 24-hour reporting of critical cases, discussion of the reasons for any fatal cases, and constant ward inspection for severely-ill cases. We also organized intubation teams to carry out tracheal intubation for severely-ill patients, and promoted the clinical use of traditional Chinese medicine. In doing so, the recovery rate of severely-ill and critical patients has risen to 64% from 14% in designated hospitals, and a total of more than 36,000 patients have been discharged from hospitals after recovery all over the country.

Thanks to these arduous efforts, the situation of the epidemic prevention and control in the country is moving in a positive direction while maintaining overall stability. According to the China-WHO joint expert team, China's unprecedented public health responses to the COVID-19 outbreak have yielded notable results in blocking human-to-human transmission of the virus, preventing or at least delaying hundreds of thousands of cases.

Recently, the CPC Central Committee, bearing in mind the overall situation of economic and social development and the overall situation of reforms, development and stability, has made major decisions to coordinate the prevention and control of the epidemic with economic and social development. The State Council has made specific arrangements. With the transformation of epidemic prevention and control from "static management" to "dynamic management", from "national unified requirements" to "regional classification", from "social prevention and control" to "precise prevention and control", higher requirements have been put forward for the health system. We are fully aware that the current achievements in epidemic prevention and control have not come easily, and the situation remains grim and complex. With the resumption of production, reopening of schools and movement of people returning to their place of residence, there is a risk of a rebound of the epidemic. Some places have already seen a cluster of cases, meaning we should not take any chances or relax mentally. We know full well that our medical personnel must firmly defend Hubei, especially Wuhan, as the decisive focus. "Although China is a large country, we must not take a step back." Because, behind Hubei and Wuhan stand 1.4 billion Chinese people and 7.5 billion vulnerable people throughout the rest of the world, and it is the duty of medical workers to safeguard people's health and improve human welfare.

As the next step, the central guidance group will continue to focus on epidemic prevention and control in urban and rural communities and treatment of patients in accordance with General Secretary Xi Jinping's requirements. In terms of epidemic prevention and control, we should guide local governments to put forward suggestions on the best ways to dynamically adjust emergency response levels in accordance with the law and regulations. Different prevention and control strategies should be adopted in different regions, like Wuhan, Hubei Province, Beijing, some key provinces, as well as the whole country. In accordance with the requirements of the fifth edition of the prevention and control plan, different measures should be clarified for low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk epidemic counties. For the implementation of the circular issued by the joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council, specific and precise arrangements are needed to further consolidate responsibilities of enterprises, public institutions and schools, revise and improve the prevention and control plans for key groups, places and institutions, and provide technical support for orderly resumption of work, production and reopening of schools.

In terms of medical treatment, we need to ensure that newly-discovered cases are treated without delay on a daily basis, continue to optimize medical equipment and resources, and make arrangements for pairing assistance from 19 provinces. We should pay attention to the treatment of mild cases and block the way to severe cases in a timely way. For treatment of patients with severe conditions, we should adhere to the "four combinations", namely, combing preclinical medicine with clinical practice, combining clinical treatment with multi-disciplinary support, combing medical treatment with nursing care, as well as combing medical treatment with management. We should fully leverage the technical advantages of various clinical key disciplines in our country for each patient treatment.

Thank you.

Xi Yanchun:

Thank you, Mr. Ma. Now, let's move onto the question and answer section. Reporters can ask questions by video link. Please identify your news organization before asking questions.

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