随着新型冠状性病毒感染者数量和多个国家都出现疫情的事实，世界卫生组织宣布将新型冠状病毒疫情列为“国际关注的突发公共卫生事件” （Public Health Emergency of International Concern）。
Moderator: Mr. Chen, where are we in terms of this fight against a new coronavirus?
this virus outbreak has very much caught us off guard and it has spread
very quickly and it’s very contagious, and the origin of this virus is
still unknown. It looks like the death rate is lower than SARS but more people are impacted at a much faster speed.
So we have very limited time to respond but I think the release of
information about the human to human transmission led the government to
take many measures, like the lockdown of the major cities. And there was
some evidence showing that the lockdown has been effective because they
found a lower number of transmissions, which means that people who were
infected are infecting fewer people. So the number is going down, and
that’s great. And also the Chinese government wanted to extend the
holiday season in order to bypass the risk of transmission during the
incubation time to make everyone safe. They also are taking very
concrete measures in health policy like insurance reimbursement and are
also trying their best to enforce the screening of people in primary
care before they flood into the hospital.
A lot of people are asking the same question: are we approaching the
turning point? Because over the past 10 days we’ve seen cases jumping
from a hundred to ten thousand. What do you make of the increased speed
of infected cases in China?
think the current data assessment shows that it’s still on the rise but
we are closer to what we would call the “plateau” of this infection. So
we see more fluctuations in the trend of new confirmed cases and new
suspended cases which are good signals because that means we are closer
to a more stabilized point where the new cases will be gradually
stabilized and hopefully soon reducing. So we are closer and we should be confident although it will take more time, could be like 10 days or so.
A lot of people worry about the phenomenon of some people who may not
show any symptoms but still could carry the virus, and they could be
spreaders. How concerned are you about this?
I would say this is really indeed a concern, but I would say most of
the cases have shown symptoms before they are infecting others. So I
good way to enhance health education and to help promote the healthy
behavior of individuals is to show the correct way to wear face masks
and also encourage frequently washing hands. Those
avoidance behaviors of protection will reduce the chance of being
infected by those without symptoms. And this is also a concern for
different countries in the U.S., Europe, and other countries; they also
have found some symptomatic cases, so they are taking measures. And if
that is the case, the patient should stay at home and be screened before
they go into hospitals. They should take more cautious measures in
order to avoid all people going to the hospital and causing further
As you said, the epicenter Wuhan with a population of 11 million people
is now in lockdown, and also the central government is encouraging
people all over the country to have minimal travel. How long do you
think this kind of restriction of movement will be in place in this
massive, populous country?
I think the very critical time point was the starting date of the
lockdown, meaning when the last group of people were leaving Wuhan, they
would still have an incubation time period and that takes time for them
to develop symptoms. So it really depends on the length of incubation
and incubation time, which according to the current evidence, it could
last from 4 days till 10 days. Thus, early February would be very
dangerous for those individuals to be developing any symptoms. So, I would say it could be like a little bit later than February 2, which is the end of the public holiday.
The government may have already considered this in deciding to extend
the public holidays, especially for some certain occupations. And the
government may want to screen the flow back for the people who are
leaving Wuhan because that reduces the population density of the traffic
But the lockdown happened on January the 23rd. And Wuhan’s mayor said 5
million travelers already left the city before the lockdown and they
are all stranded in different places all over the world. And they are
actually trying to stay quarantined, but still how worried should we be
when these people are moving back to their city or moving elsewhere?
a great question. So, when they return back, they already passed the
incubation time. So they should be safe without transmitting the disease
to others. So we should be more worried about things like stigma. The
WHO Director-General mentioned that we should have more solidarity
instead of stigma. So that means we really need to treat them without
discrimination. And one more thing I worried a little bit about is those
5 million people, many of them went back to their home county, the
villages. And we know that rural
China is a weak point for infectious disease. We should monitor not
only urban areas, but also keep a close eye on rural counties. That’s very important.
So Dr.Chen, it seems like a vaccine is still several months down the
road, so medically what is the best way to treat those patients, and can
the medical facilities handle tens of thousands of patients right now?
think currently the healthcare system is overwhelmed, there is no
effective cure and the vaccine needs at least a few months time to be
developed. But there is some encouraging news:
the declaration of an emergency of international concern will
accelerate information sharing and collaboration in the scientific world
to fasten the development of a vaccination and any kind of therapeutics. It takes time because it needs animal testing and human testing, but it will fasten this process.
I heard from the news that a vaccine will be developed within the next couple of months.
there is encouraging news that the WHO and global communities are
coming in to join this initiative. More and more pharmaceutical
companies are joining. And the funders and donators are trying to fund
those kinds of research and development.
We’ve actually been here before, 17 years ago, when China witnessed the
outbreak of SARS. But in terms of the medical care system and
scientific research capabilities, is China better off now than 17 years
I would agree with that and also after SARS, China’s CDC developed a
system they called the surveillance early warning system of infectious
disease. So the system was linked in the local hospitals with the CDC
directly. So any infectious disease cases, about 5 cases, then they are
able to trigger this warning system. They have to press a button and
fill out some information, then the national level of the CDC would
receive it. However, this early warning system tends to be insensitive
to new types of infectious diseases. In such cases, local medical
workers even have difficulty reporting, which could weaken the
functioning of the early alerting.
But I would say that we still need to strengthen our primary care system.
In the last ten years, China just celebrated the 10th year anniversary
of new healthcare reform. But that reform mostly focuses on empowering
hospitals. So we still need time to develop the integrated care system
to empower local care. So then people will have better care options to
treat those mild symptoms instead of flooding into the hospitals, which
will be very dangerous in the case of infectious diseases. People can be
Moderator：And very briefly, what worries you the most and what encourages you the most at this moment?
worries me the most is uncertainty. I think this epidemic could have
brought us more infected cases and higher case fatality rates given
vulnerable healthcare systems and a low level of preparedness in many
countries, not only for China, but also countries with fragile health
systems like the WHO Director- General mentioned. So I think that was
part of the reason he was announcing this emergency.
what encourages me the most is that the government really is taking
timely measures to share the gene of the pathogen, and also very
stringent measures to lock down major cities to cut the flow of
transportation. That was unprecedented, otherwise we would be in a worse