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

Yomiuri Shimbun:

At present, the new cases in Hubei province and Wuhan city have been declining. The WHO believed the epidemic had reached its peak, but a CPC Central Committee meeting held on Feb. 21 stressed the turning point of the epidemic was yet to come. How do you analyze it? Thank you.

Ma Xiaowei:

Mr. Liang Wannian please answer the question. He is the Chinese team leader of the WHO-China Joint Mission.

Liang Wannian:

Since the outbreak, we have been organizing multi-disciplinary experts, including those involved in public health, epidemiology, health emergency, clinical medicine, law, sociology, economics, etc., to track and evaluate the development of the epidemic, and at the same time undertake a risk assessment. Through situation evaluation and risk assessment, experts agreed that the epidemic prevention and control was tactically correct, the measures decisive and effective in achieving positive results and obvious progress. They mainly help avoid a larger-scale epidemic outbreak and spreading. The situation of national epidemic prevention and control is in positive trend. I will introduce the situation of the epidemic by levels and regions.

Wuhan is the epicenter of this epidemic, and it is also the most seriously-affected region. Currently, the rapid rising trend of the epidemic has been curbed, which is reflected in the decrease of newly confirmed cases and the decrease of new suspected cases each day. The proportion of severe cases among confirmed ones has decreased, and the fatality rate has fallen. These four figures fully show that the epidemic is being effectively controlled.

I have a set of data here. For example, the highest number of newly confirmed cases per day was 3,910 on Feb. 13, and then fell to 313 on Feb. 27. The number of newly recovered and discharged patients, beginning from Feb. 20, exceeded the number of newly confirmed cases for eight consecutive days. This is a very good situation. Not only the balance of entry and exit of hospitals has been reached, but the number of discharged patients has also exceeded the number of newly-confirmed ones.

The proportion of existing severe cases, that is, the proportion of severely-ill patients among total confirmed cases, has continued to fluctuate and decline from 31.6% on Feb. 11 to 22.4% on Feb. 27. The fatality rate has dropped from a peak of 9.0% on Jan. 26 to 4.4% at present. At the same time, there's a relatively good situation that among the new cases every day, we further analyze that these new cases are mainly the ones transferred from the suspected category under observation, which accounts for 80% to 90% of the total. This means that these cases all were diagnosed from what we have under our control. This is a basic situation in Wuhan.

In other cities in Hubei province, our research and evaluation found that the local outbreak situation had been contained. This is our basic judgment. There are several sets of data in cities other than Wuhan in Hubei to confirm this situation. The number of newly-confirmed cases per day has fallen from the peak of more than 1,400 on Feb. 12, to five at present. And the number of recovered and discharged cases has exceeded the number of newly-confirmed ones for 13 consecutive days starting from Feb. 15. At the same time, the proportion of existing severe cases continues to remain stable, which was 12.9% on Feb. 27. The fatality rate has remained steady since Jan. 26, and was 3.1% on Feb. 27.

Nationwide, the epidemic control in provincial-level regions outside Hubei has seen a growing positive trend, with only sporadic cases. The number of new infections has dived, daily new confirmed cases having plummeted from 890 at a peak time on Feb. 3 to nine, and the newly recovered and discharged patients have outnumbered new confirmed cases for 16 consecutive days since Feb. 12. The severe cases have remained at a level of 10.3% and the mortality rate has stabilized between 0.5 and 0.8%. On Feb. 27, no new confirmed cases were reported among 24 provincial-level regions as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

These are our studies and judgments on the situations categorized in the three major regions mentioned above. However, our expert panel warns that zero growth is by no means equal to zero risk as challenges facing China's prevention and control efforts remain formidable, and uncertainties over whether the virus will return still puts us under strain. We should not be blindly upbeat, and become less vigilant. In a holistic view across the country, Hubei province, with its capital Wuhan in particular, remains the epicenter. Stringent prevention work is still vital in regions outside Hubei in case the epidemic may return when the migration of people has increased during the resumption of work and production. Cross infections will probably lead to a second outbreak in certain areas. In the next phase, we must continue to bring the epidemic under control, however, at the same time, balance the epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development. To this end, our experts give the following advice:

Regarding the prevention work in Wuhan, we will continue to adopt the approaches shown to work, including to prevent the disease from further spreading both in and outside the city, and step up efforts in medical treatment and mass prevention and control. We will continue to implement and maintain the existing measures, such as, ensuring all exits from Wuhan remain closed, to enhance the prevention and control efforts in communities and to adhere to the principle of concentrating cases, experts, resources and treatment. It is essential for us to improve our medical treatment to reduce the mortality rate. At the same time, patients with light symptoms in Wuhan should be treated meticulously to prevent their conditions from aggravating.

The policies in other city-level areas outside Wuhan in Hubei province should be implemented with the focus on stringent management and control in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading both within and beyond the borders of Hubei resulting in another outbreak. We should strictly follow the measures taken to treat people categorized in four different groups, namely, confirmed COVID-19 patients, suspected ones, people who have had close contact with the former two, and patients with common fever, to ensure that the transmission will be completely blocked. We will continue to follow the stringent rules to control the exits from Wuhan and Hubei so as to prevent the epidemic from spreading to the rest part of the country.

The focus on prevention, on non-transmission from external sources and on containing the existing cases from further spreading should be implemented in the rest of the country. The prevention and control approaches will be developed into high, medium and low levels based on the risk evaluation conducted at the county-level unit to coordinate the epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development. Thank you.

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