SCIO briefing on China's regular prevention and control of COVID-19

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Friday afternoon in Beijing on China's regular prevention and control of COVID-19. May 16, 2020


What do you think of China's cooperation with the WHO and relevant countries since the outbreak of the epidemic? I heard that China rejected the WHO's request to send a mission to visit the P4 lab in Wuhan. Is it true? Thank you.

Zeng Yixin:

Mr. Li Mingzhu will answer your questions.

Li Mingzhu:

Thank you for your questions. Amid the grave and complex global epidemic situation, China is faced with arduous tasks of preventing imported cases and guarding against domestic resurgence. While ensuring effective prevention and control of the disease at home, we have actively carried out international cooperation. At the multilateral level, we have worked closely with the WHO and the G20, implementing cooperation initiatives proposed by the two organizations. At the bilateral level, recently we held a video conference of health ministers from China and central and eastern European countries, a China-U.K. health ministers dialogue and a video conference for the health ministers of China, Japan and South Korea. These are all exchanges at the government level. In terms of technical issues, we have held video conferences with 12 African countries on the sharing of experience in fighting COVID-19. In addition, at the request of relevant countries, we have sent 21 teams of medical experts to 19 countries to help fight against the virus. Their work has been highly appreciated at the local governmental and public levels.

The WHO, as a specialized agency of the United Nations, plays an important leading role in coordinating global health issues. China attaches great importance to its cooperation with the WHO, and firmly supports the organization in organizing global anti-epidemic cooperation. Since the outbreak began, we have been sharing information with it, as well as the broader international community with an open, transparent and responsible attitude. We have established a mechanism for technical exchanges with WHO experts, and held many technical exchange meetings. We also invited WHO experts to conduct field visits in China. From Jan. 20 to 21, we received a team of its experts for a field visit in Wuhan. The team visited medical and health institutions, including laboratories. The members of the team had in-depth exchanges with local experts. From Feb. 16 to 24, we received the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19. The mission conducted on-site visits in Beijing, Sichuan, Guangdong and Wuhan, and undertook comprehensive and in-depth investigations into the epidemic situation, prevention and control measures, medical treatment as well as scientific research. They also gave China and other countries valuable and constructive advice on the prevention and control of the outbreak. The WHO has never asked to visit a specific lab in China, so the allegation that China rejected WHO's request to visit a lab in Wuhan goes against the facts. Thank you.

The Straits Times:

I have two questions. The first question is: Can you please comment on two specific allegations made by U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo that the National Health Commission had ordered virus samples destroyed on Jan. 3 and that China had not shared virus samples with other countries? My second question is: Why does the NHC insist on not including asymptomatic cases in its official tally, when such cases are proven to be infectious and clearly a cause for concern? Thank you. 

Zeng Yixin:

Mr. Liu Dengfeng will answer the first question.

Liu Dengfeng:

The allegations disseminated by these U.S. officials are purely out of context and intentionally mislead people. In the face of the pneumonia outbreak of unknown cause, pathogen identification was the primary task, which was also the basic work for scientific prevention and control. We attached great importance to this, and we immediately organized national high-level professional institutions to conduct the parallel identification of the pathogen. They worked around the clock, day and night, to identify the pathogen as soon as possible. In this case, we also maintained a high degree of vigilance against the pathogenicity of the virus, and organized experts to conduct comprehensive research and evaluation. To prevent the leakage of biological pathogen samples and ensure biological safety — and based on the comprehensive research and opinions of experts — we determined to handle the pathogen causing unexplained cases of pneumonia temporarily as class II highly pathogenic, and we made clear biosafety requirements for collection, transportation, experimental activities and destruction, etc. According to the relevant requirements of the "Law of the People's Republic of China on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases" and "Regulation on the Bio-safety Management of Pathogenic Microbe Labs," we issued relevant documents on Jan. 3 with the major aim of guarding against the risks of laboratory biosafety and preventing secondary hazards caused by unknown pathogens.

At the same time, in order to further strengthen and regulate laboratory biosafety work, we issued laboratory biosafety guidelines for pandemic prevention and control, which also played an important role in preventing biosafety risks. In fact, China's laws and regulations have set clear requirements for the storage, destruction and experimental activities of highly pathogenic microorganism samples. If the laboratory conditions cannot meet the requirements for the safe preservation of samples, the samples should be destroyed on the spot or transferred to a professional institution for safekeeping. All of these measures are clearly stipulated. At the same time, these are also work requirements set by laws and regulations for laboratory biosafety supervision departments.

Regarding the sharing of pathogenic microbial strains, China has always maintained an active and open attitude. China has always been an active contributor in the sharing of pathogenic microbial strains. For example, in recent years, in order to prevent a global influenza pandemic and under the WHO framework, we have provided many highly pathogenic influenza virus strains to the U.S., Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Russia. Regarding the sharing of novel coronavirus strains, we also have an active and open attitude and are willing to share novel coronavirus strains in an orderly manner within the framework of the WHO, further strengthen international cooperation and scientific research and promote the development, production and equitable distribution of COVID-19-related vaccines, diagnostic tools and therapeutic drugs. Thank you.

Zeng Yixin:

Let me answer the question regarding the reporter's concern about asymptomatic cases. In fact, this issue has been specifically studied by the NHC, mainly based on three considerations.

First, the asymptomatic infected people we are talking about actually comprise two groups. The first group includes the so-called recessive infected people. After they are infected with the virus, they have no symptoms from beginning to end, or the symptoms are very mild. The other group of people includes those who are still in the incubation period after infection. Symptoms may appear later, but there may be no symptoms at the time of testing, which is considered part of the incubation period. As such, they are neither appropriately classified as confirmed cases nor recessive infections because they are undergoing changes. So we refer to all these people as "asymptomatic cases," and this is how we handle them from a managerial perspective.

Second, you may notice that we report asymptomatic cases who are detected every day, in addition to the confirmed cases and suspected cases. There is a particular part of our reports dedicated to reporting asymptomatic infected people, so our information is open. We are also reporting how many asymptomatic cases have turned into confirmed cases on a daily basis. Our information is open, intact and complete.

Third, we pay the same attention to asymptomatic cases as to suspected and confirmed cases, and we are also taking corresponding isolation measures and strict medical observation measures. Some individuals gradually develop symptoms and become confirmed cases, while some of them merely recover. We have been paying close attention and we are taking very strict measures to supervise these people.

This is why we still use the term "asymptomatic cases." We have studied this issue repeatedly, and this is why we do it this way. Thank you.

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