SCIO briefing on scientific research into COVID-19

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on April 27 in Beijing to brief the media about scientific research into COVID-19. April 29, 2020


We noticed some experts, including WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have pointed out that the novel coronavirus might be with us for a long time. Many people fear that the epidemic may easily re-ignite. It may retreat in summer and return in winter. What's your opinion on it? Is it possible for this to happen? If this is the case, how can people protect themselves from the virus? The SARS outbreak in 2003 dissipated as the weather warmed up. Will COVID-19 transmission also change with fluctuations in daily temperature? Thank you.

Wang Guiqiang:

Thank you for your question. This is a question that many people are concerned about. As you mentioned, SARS disappeared in a relatively short time and hasn't returned so far. However, the novel coronavirus is quite different from SARS and MERS. It can remain active for longer and has a higher ratio of asymptomatic infection. More importantly, although the novel coronavirus is sensitive to heat (and can be inactivated) at 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, it is impossible for the weather to be that hot. Therefore, it is unlikely to see a significant decline in COVID-19 cases in summer around the world. 

As for whether the COVID-19 might be with us for a long time, we can't exclude such a possibility. It is possible for it to re-ignite in crowded and stuffy places in fall or winter. That's why we think it is crucial to take globalized prevention and control measures. Having put COVID-19 under control domestically, China is facing a surge of imported cases. The world is not safe even if there is one country incapable of curbing the spread of the virus. China has made a phased achievement with a huge expense. Looking at the trend of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope the whole world can band together, follow WHO advice, and confront the global fight together. This is very important.

Jin Qi:

I want to share my thoughts on this as well. I have met many people with a "SARS mentality," which means they take it for granted that the novel coronavirus came without casting a shadow and will disappear without leaving a trace, just like SARS in 2003. In fact, the two are totally different. We have been trying to find out whether a virus can be harbored in a human body and cause chronic diseases or seasonal epidemics. Once a person was infected with SARS, he or she developed a fever. That's why we could curb the spread of SARS after we put all patients with a fever under control. The precondition was that SARS-infected patients displayed an obvious symptom—fever.

Now, the situation with the novel coronavirus is far more complex. We have seen asymptomatic infection, also called subclinical infection or inapparent infection. It is challenging to spot asymptomatic patients when they show no symptom of infection at all. So, can you expect such a virus to easily disappear from human society? Unlike SARS, it is somewhat likely for COVID-19 to co-exist with us for a long time and cause seasonal epidemics, just like other coronaviruses do. Thank you.

Xi Yanchun:

I think we are still making progress into the scientific research of the disease, and constantly deepening our understanding of it. I believe that as time goes by, we will develop an increasingly clearer picture of the virus.

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