SCIO briefing on progress of Central Guidance Team in organizing and guiding epidemic control and medical rescue

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on March 31 in Wuhan, inviting members of the Central Guidance Team to brief the media about the progress of its work in epidemic control and medical rescue. April 2, 2020

The Straits Times:

Asymptomatic cases have not been included in China's official statistics. But there is a growing concern that these asymptomatic cases could grow and cause a second wave of infection as control measures begin to relax. How will the National Health Commission deal with this phenomenon?

Ma Xiaowei:

Recently there has been growing concern about asymptomatic infections. Let's invite Chang Jile, director of the National Health Commission's Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, to answer this question. 

Chang Jile:

Thank you for your attention to this phenomenon. The commission has always paid close attention to the situation of infected people without symptoms and insisted on the strict management of asymptomatic cases and their close contacts. Asymptomatic COVID-19 patients refer to those who do not show any clinical symptoms, including fever, cough, and pharyngalgia, and have no clinically identifiable symptoms or signs, but their test results for COVID-19 are positive.

Asymptomatic cases can mostly be identified through active monitoring. There are four ways of monitoring these cases. The first is the medical observation of close contact. The second is the investigation of clustered COVID-19 outbreaks. The third is tracking the source of the infection. The fourth is the detection of people who have traveled or lived in regions where COVID-19 cases have continued to spread.

In terms of report management, the commission has asked local health authorities to strengthen the prevention and control management of asymptomatic patients. The first is to enhance the management of information reporting. Medical and health institutions at all levels are required to make online reporting within two hours after asymptomatic infections are found. The second is to carry out epidemiological surveys in a swift manner. County and district level disease control centers are required to complete case investigations within 24 hours after receiving the report of asymptomatic infection, carry out timely registration of close contacts, and promptly complete case reports through the infectious disease reporting management system. The third is to take strict measures of quarantine management. Infected people without symptoms are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. After their 14-day quarantine, they will be released if two consecutive nucleic acid tests at an interval of 24 hours are found to be negative. If their test results are found to be positive, quarantine and medical observation should continue. Close contacts of asymptomatic patients are also required to undergo a 14-day quarantine and medical observation. The fourth is to standardize medical treatment. If there are clinical symptoms during their quarantine and medical observation, asymptomatic patients should be counted as confirmed cases and transferred to designated hospitals for standard treatment in a timely manner. 

In response to public concerns about asymptomatic infections, we encourage medical experts to respond and discuss cases in mainstream media. From April 1, we will publish reports, outcomes, and the management of asymptomatic cases in our daily briefing and respond to social concerns promptly. Next, we hope to replicate the spirit of the meeting convened by the leading group of CPC Central Committee on coping with COVID-19 and highlight the monitoring, tracking, quarantine, and treatment of asymptomatic cases. We will accelerate our pace to collect a certain percentage of samples from heavily affected areas to carry out surveys and epidemiological analyses to improve prevention and control measures. Thank you.

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