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

The Kyunghyang Shinmun:

I have two questions. First, in order to prevent and control the COVID-19 pandemic, personnel exchanges between different countries have been largely impeded. As China has achieved major strategic results in combating the pandemic, when will the existing visa suspension measures be eased? In addition, as China conducts virus control on an ongoing basis along with its economic development, to what extent should the prevention and control work be carried out? Can people take off their facial masks during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, for example? Thank you. 

Guo Weimin:

There are two questions. The first one is about international personnel exchange, and Mr. Ma will answer that. The second one concerning epidemic prevention and control will be answered by Mr. Wang.

Ma Zhaoxu:

Epidemic knows no border. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, countries have followed the instructions of the World Health Organization (WHO) and adopted some necessary measures concerning personnel exchange including entry and exit control, in order to better prevent and control the epidemic. This is an international practice. Speaking in regard to China's situation, we adopted a targeted, law- and science-based approach, and introduced public health emergency response measures on an unprecedented extensive scale across the country. All those measures aimed to safeguard not only the health and safety of the Chinese people and foreigners in China but also regional and global public health. The COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading across the world, and China is facing increasing pressure to prevent imported cases. Under no circumstance should we slack off. In the meantime, we will pay close attention to the global epidemic situation, and strengthen communication and coordination with various parties and improve in a timely way the prevention and control measures concerning imported cases. On the premise of ensuring the overall situation of domestic epidemic prevention and control, we will coordinate epidemic prevention and economic and social development, making dynamic adjustment to relevant policies and measures. 

We are working with various countries to strengthen cooperation. This includes joint prevention and control on an international level. We aim to restore personnel exchange between China and other countries in a steady, gradual and orderly way and help resume normal work and production and ensure the safety and steadiness of the international industry chain and supply chain. In the meantime, we have provided a "fast channel" for urgently-needed personnel concerning business, logistics, production and technological services, in order to minimize the impact of the epidemic on society and economy. You (the journalist raising this question) come from South Korea, and should know that China and South Korea first established such a "fast channel," and it has so far been doing fine. Based on our experiences with South Korea, China then established "fast channel" with Germany and Singapore. We will discuss with other countries around the world to establish "fast channel" on the premise of ensuring epidemic prevention and control in order to meet the needs of work and production resumption, and further boost the economy of China and the world. 

Wang Chen:

Prevention and control on an ongoing basis are a very important issue. It should first depend on the overall evaluation of the level of epidemic risks and emergency response. Correspondingly, there are relevant measures at each level. The whole society should act systematically based on the requirements of these rules and social management. We should find a balance between effective prevention and control and people's life and production. On May 7, upon the approval of the Central Leading Group for Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Control, through the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism, the State Council released Guidelines on Conducting COVID-19 Prevention and Control on an Ongoing Basis. The document puts forward a series of measures and guidelines from five aspects and 20 key points as follows:

First, the emphasis is on prevention. It refers to measures taken to prevent the emergence of cases and their spread when there is no case. Wearing masks is recommended among citizens. Social distancing is encouraged and extra protection should be given to vulnerable groups. We should work to further improve people's health literacy through the COVID-19 pandemic, such as frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing when it is necessary, using serving chopsticks when dining in public places, covering up when sneezing or coughing, smoking control and quitting, to name a few.

Second, we should be extra careful that if new COVID-19 cases emerge, timely and effective measures must be taken. The principle of "early in four aspects" should be observed. First is early detection and response. Second is early reporting and swift social actions. Third is early quarantine to stop the virus from spreading. Fourth is early treatment to improve the effectiveness and prevent mild cases from turning critical.

Third, we should highlight the prevention and control of key links. We need to pay special attention to crowded locations, such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools and adopt special measures. We need to raise prevention and control awareness and we need to introduce reinforced measures. For vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and patients with chronic conditions, we will provide them with special protection measures, for if they are infected they are likely to become sicker and have a higher fatality rate than healthy people and those with relatively stronger bodies. The community is the key to pandemic prevention and control work, and it is often the starting place for the spread of the pandemic. It is necessary to make appropriate work arrangements according to the situation of the pandemic and the unique condition of each community. China has good experience with pandemic prevention and control at the grassroots level. These will be better reflected and put to use in future prevention and control work.

Fourth, we should provide more supportive measures. As General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized, science and technology constitute mankind's most powerful weapon against diseases. As mentioned by Minister Wang Zhigang just now, a series of deployments and advancements have been made in scientific research and development, and many achievements have been made, too. Some available modern methods, such as big data, can be employed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of pandemic prevention and control. In terms of international cooperation, in addition to China's own experience, it is crucial to develop international cooperation and learn from the pandemic prevention and control efforts of other countries as well as their scientific and technological progress. In promoting the building of a human community with a shared future, special emphasis should be given to international cooperation.

Fifth, we should strengthen organization and leadership. Party committees and governments played a key role during our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments make judgments on the risk level and response level so as to mobilize all parties in society to better prevent and control the epidemic, allowing for a sound arrangement of life and work.

Regarding the question about masks, Beijing has lowered its COVID-19 emergency response to level III. In this level, most people can actually choose not to wear a mask on most occasions. But it depends on the situation. First, one should be clear when and under what circumstances one needs to wear a mask as well as when they can abstain. For example, one does not need to wear a mask at open places, well-ventilated places or when proper social distancing is maintained. But when facing a patient with respiratory symptoms, staying in an enclosed and crowded space or at a hospital, one should still wear a mask. There is science behind wearing a mask. The Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control of the National Health Commission of the PRC and other relevant international healthcare institutions have all issued guidelines suggesting people should wear masks. In addition, people can always keep a mask at hand in case it is needed. Some key groups of people should wear masks, including those with certain occupations, such as people working in hospitals or in enclosed places, police, community workers who have close contact with others and vulnerable groups who are high risk if infected with the coronavirus, such as patients with chronic diseases and the elderly. Also, people with respiratory symptoms should certainly wear masks. Therefore, whether to wear a mask or not should depend on one's specific situation. Generally speaking, though, as China has achieved remarkable pandemic prevention and control progress, more people are able to take off their face masks on more occasions. Thank you.

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