SCIO briefing on white paper 'Fighting COVID-19: China in Action'

​The State Council Information Office (SCIO) held a press conference on June 7 to brief the media on its new white paper: "Fighting COVID-19: China in Action." June 10, 2020


Some foreign media have said that the Chinese government delayed releasing the genome of the virus for one week, and it is because China covered up the virus and its outbreak that caused it to spread across the globe. What do you think of this? Thank you. 

Ma Xiaowei:

I don't agree with what this foreign media had said, because it goes against the facts. Mr. Xu Lin responded to this earlier: the Chinese government did not delay or hide anything. Instead, it informed the international community of the virus data and the outbreak, making a great contribution to the global prevention and control work. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most extensive to afflict humanity in a century. It is a serious crisis and a daunting challenge for the entire world. Faced with such an unprecedented new virus, there were many things we didn't know during the initial outbreak, including its pathogen, incubation period, transmission methods, pathogenesis, its ability of transmission, source of infection, immunity of people, and so on. This is a process of accumulating evidence, of deepening our understanding, and of learning about its characteristics. We could say that even today, mankind still has a lot to learn about the virus.

Since the onset of the epidemic, acting with openness, transparency, and a high sense of responsibility, the Chinese government has quickly established a coping mechanism and has been carrying out aetiological and epidemiological studies in a race against time. It took eight days to identify the pathogen, and 16 days to successfully develop the detection kit. The Chinese government has informed the WHO and relevant countries about the epidemic outbreak, shared the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus, and launched international epidemic prevention and control in the first instance.

Here, I would like to give you a brief overview of the basic process. On Dec. 27, 2019, the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine reported the "pneumonia of unknown etiology" to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Jianghan district, Wuhan city. On Dec. 30, 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an urgent notification to medical institutions under its jurisdiction, ordering efforts to appropriately treat patients with pneumonia of unknown cause. On Dec. 31, 2019, the National Health Commission (NHC) sent a working group and an expert team to Wuhan to guide an epidemic response. On Jan. 1, 2020, the NHC set up a leading group to determine the emergency response to the epidemic. On Jan. 3, 2020, China began to regularly inform the WHO, the U.S., and other countries about the pneumonia outbreak. On Jan. 7, 2020, the China CDC and other research institutions succeeded in isolating the first novel coronavirus strain. On Jan. 9, 2020, China shared with the WHO the initial progress in determining the cause of the viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. On Jan. 12, 2020, China submitted the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) and shared globally about the information on the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus. In such a short time, China has identified a new infectious disease, including its pathogen and transmission route, and shared the information with the world. We can see that the Chinese government has adopted an open, transparent, and responsible attitude. On Dec. 31, 2019, the Hubei provincial government released its first briefing on its official website. Beginning Jan. 21, 2020, the NHC started to provide daily updates on epidemic activity on its official website. From Feb. 16 to 24, the China-WHO joint expert team conducted field visits to Beijing, Sichuan, Guangdong, and Wuhan. The team stated that China's decisive, powerful and timely measures had prevented hundreds of thousands of cases. This is a brief timeline of the early stages of the epidemic outbreak.

The timeline is very clear. The work of the Chinese government and Chinese scientists will stand the test of history and time. The virus knows no borders, and the pandemic knows no race. It's a challenge faced by all human beings, and only solidarity and cooperation can be the most powerful weapon for the international community to defeat the epidemic. This is the experience we have learned from our previous work with the international community in the fight against other major epidemics, including AIDS, Ebola, influenza A, and the H1N1 flu. The path we followed then is the correct one to continue to follow in the face of the current pandemic. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, upholding the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, we have actively fulfilled our international obligations, closely cooperated with the WHO and relevant countries, shared epidemic and virus information with the international community, and provided material and technical assistance to more than 100 countries and international organizations within our capacity.

We will continue to fulfill our international obligations and make due contributions to epidemic prevention and control. Thank you.

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