SCIO briefing on the cooperation between China and the int'l community in fighting COVID-19

The State Council Information Office (SCIO) held a press conference Thursday morning in Beijing to introduce the cooperation between China and the international community in fighting COVID-19. March 28, 2020

Economic Daily:

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has shared the genome sequence of COVID-19 with the WHO from the very start. My question is, what has China done in guaranteeing scientific data and information sharing? What kind of role are Chinese scientists play in combating the COVID-19 epidemic? Thank you.

Xu Nanping:

Thank you for your question. This is a very important question as scientific data and information sharing is the prerequisite and basis for international cooperation. I think media friends are aware President Xi Jinping inspected the scientific work some time ago. As for international cooperation, he put forward a requirement to share scientific research data and information, undertake joint research and create various response measures. Our interpretation is that the COVID-19 pandemic is an issue faced by all humanity and to defeat it, we have to rely on the joint efforts in the scientific community around the world, pool the wisdom and share achievements. Simply speaking, we should jointly face the challenge, undertake joint research and share the results. In this context, sharing scientific data and information is vital and this is our general attitude. We have made efforts in the following aspects:

First, sharing the genome information. We undertook this on Jan. 11 for the first time and I want to emphasize the significance of that. Just because of this action, all the countries were able to conduct virus research, medicine development and vaccine research based on that. It was a fundamental task. As for data sharing, we've established two platforms, namely, the Global Coronavirus Data Sharing and Analysis System issued by the National Microorganism Scientific Data Center, and the COVID-19 Resource Data Base from the China National Center for Bio-information. The two platforms have played important roles, and the second one in particular has offered data services for 76,000 visitors from 152 countries and regions and documents have been downloaded more than four million times from the website. Some 4.44 million downloads had been made by yesterday. At the same time, I've noted that experts from both home and abroad have made analyses on the virus based on this data and published high-level theses. That's what we have done in genome information sharing.

Second, we have established academic sharing platforms. I will talk about some incidents manifesting the Chinese government's resolution in regard to information sharing. One time when we reported the progress of some scientific and technological project to a leader from the State Council, the leader asked that whether we can share the information with the international community and colleagues in the first place and give full play to the role of the achievement in epidemic control, so as to avoid making detours. He offered two pieces of advice as follows: one is to establish a data platform for collecting and displaying all the achievements, and the other is to encourage scientists and clinicians to publish their most valuable achievements through authoritative international journals in English to facilitate communication. Following the requirement, we established the COVID-19 Prevention and Control Scientific Research Achievement Sharing and Communication Platform on the National Medical Journal of China. By now, a total of 99 journals have engaged with the platform and over 700 theses and reports have been published with the page views totaling 2.3 million. As for theses publication, Chinese scientists have published 54 theses on the four mainstream medical journals like the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, and seven main comprehensive ones like Science, Nature and Cell. The theses published by the team led by Academician Zhong Nanshan covered 1,099 case analyses and articles published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention covered case studies involving 70,000 cases. Even a layman like myself can get a lot of inspiration from reading the articles, so I think the publication of the valuable achievements can be used for reference on global control and prevention of the pandemic. 

Third, build exchange mechanisms. There are 10 working groups under the WHO mechanism and we participate in all of these groups. As far as I know, there is frequent communication between all the groups. For example, Qin Chuan, a researcher at the Institute of Laboratory Animal Sciences, CAMS & PUMC, told me she had attended four meetings in 20 days and carried out in-depth communication concerning animal models with her international counterparts. We have also established a sound exchange mechanism with government authorities and non-governmental organizations in other countries through science and technology counselors at Chinese embassies and consulates; and conducted video conferences and academic exchanges. In addition, there have been exchanges between non-governmental institutions and scientists. As you all know, many exchanges through video have also achieved very good results. 

Fourth, carry out technical cooperation research and provide technical services. Everyone knows that we have five major research areas, each of which involves international cooperation. Meanwhile, in terms of foreign aid, we have scientific and technological products and researchers involved. We also share our solutions and experiences, and have offered technical services to hard-hit areas. 

As for your question about the role of Chinese scientists, simply put, they have provided solid scientific and technological support and played an important role in containing the outbreak; it is one of the main reasons why China can effectively improve the cure rate and reduce the mortality rate, and bring the virus under control in a short period of time. There have been many moving situations. As I said at the last press conference, one month is too short for scientific research, but a long time in terms of people's lives and health. Now, two months are still very short for scientific research but a very long time in terms of people's lives and health. The achievements made by Chinese scientists in these two months can be attributed to their hard work as well as global wisdom and international cooperation. As such, I believe that science and technology have played a very important role and we are very proud of that. Thank you.

Hu Kaihong:

I would like to add a little more about this. The media has also played a very important role in sharing information. As far as I know, CGTN has a program where Chinese and foreign experts can exchange their views on this aspect. In addition, China Daily recently published special coverage introducing China's practices in this respect and sharing China's experiences and information in fighting the outbreak with the rest of the world. I hope the media can play a bigger role in this regard.

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