China fights a new wave of infections with more targeted measures
By Ji Jing  ·  2021-11-25  ·   Source: NO.47 NOVEMBER 25, 2021
A citizen has her nucleic acid samples taken in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, on November 15 (XINHUA)

A new round of COVID-19 infections has swept across China beginning on October 17. As of November 12, 1,499 cases had been reported across the country in this round, 279 of which were imported cases. And as of November 13, the virus had spread to 21 provinces.

"The situation is becoming more stable as the clusters of cases in multiple provinces have been brought under control," Wu Liangyou, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control with the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a press conference on November 13. The case clusters in Heilongjiang, Hebei, Henan and Sichuan provinces have been brought under control while those in Liaoning, Jiangxi and Yunnan provinces, as well as in Beijing, require additional efforts.

In Dalian, a coastal city in Liaoning Province, 235 domestic cases had been reported as of November 13.

The cluster of cases in Dalian has shown new characteristics, with most cases discovered among university students and faculty members in the county-level city of Zhuanghe.

Zhao Zuowei, Director of the Health Commission of Dalian, said at a press conference on November 15 that the increase of cases in this round of infections has slowed down and the risk is controllable on the whole.

However, the source of the current round of infections hasn't been found. Dalian is carrying out epistemological survey and gene sequencing to trace the source of the virus.

This is not the first wave of infections in Dalian. A cluster of cases in July last year originated from the processing workshop of a seafood company and among the case clusters last December, dock workers handling imported cold chain products were the first to be infected.

A child is vaccinated against COVID-19 in Pingxiang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on November 16 (XINHUA)

Greater risks 

The global coronavirus caseload had reached 251.3 million, and COVID-19-related deaths had surged to more than 5.07 million, according to data revealed by Johns Hopkins University on November 11. 

Since COVID-19 is still raging around the world, China faces great challenges in preventing imported cases. Additionally, as China enters winter, lower temperatures bring increased risk of infectious respiratory infections, including COVID-19. "China will continue to follow the pandemic containment measures of early detection, swift response, targeted containment and effective treatment of COVID-19 patients," NHC spokesman Mi Feng said at the recent news conference.

"China will tighten its management of people entering the country as well as of imported cold chain products. People entering public places should be required to show their health code, have their temperatures taken and wear masks," Wu said.

Vaccination has also been stepped up to assist in halting the spread of the virus. As of November 14, more than 2.38 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered across the country, and nearly 1.07 billion people had completed their inoculation series, according to official data.

Nearly 84.4 million children between 3 and 11 have been vaccinated, and over 49.4 million of them have received booster shots.

China aims to complete the vaccination of children ages 3 to 11 by the end of the year, Wu said.

An effective approach 

Over the past year or so, China has brought dozens of clusters of cases across the country under control, effectively reducing deaths from the pandemic. At the same time, its economic performance has taken the lead in the world. The country has managed to strike a balance between pandemic control and economic and social development.

"This demonstrates that our epidemic containment measures are effective," Liang Wannian, head of the NHC's COVID-19 pandemic response expert team, told Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview.

However, China still needs to adhere to the strategy of preventing cases being imported from abroad and preventing a pandemic resurgence domestically.

Liang explained that China shouldn't relax its control measures because COVID-19 is still prevalent in the world. The virus is mutating faster and the mortality rate has not significantly declined.

Against such a backdrop, China should put people and life first in its pandemic response and prioritize safeguarding people's health.

"Practices in many countries have shown that lifting restrictions too early can lead to resurgences of the pandemic and increases in critical cases and deaths," Liang said. At present, China's vaccination rate is inadequate for forming herd immunity. A premature lifting of lockdown restrictions would undermine China's pandemic control efforts.

China pursues the strategy of clearing 100 percent of COVID-19 infections whenever an outbreak occurs. Liang said the strategy of clearing all infections does not mean having a zero-tolerance policy toward infections, but instead it means working to prevent community infections through early detection, diagnosis, quarantine and effective treatment of patients.

"The strategy will prevent cases from overwhelming medical resources and minimize the impact of the pandemic on social and economic development," Liang added.

To minimize the social impact of pandemic control, Liang suggested more targeted control measures be taken. The areas placed under lockdown should be more precisely identified and the level of response should be more precisely selected.

Additional training is needed in order to improve the capabilities of contact tracers, the treatment of patients and the overall management of the pandemic.

"In addition to being more targeted, the pandemic control should also be more humanized. Better services should be provided to people affected by the pandemic to minimize the impact on people's work and life, and maximize the effectiveness of pandemic control with minimum social cost," Liang said.

The public should continue to wear masks, wash hands often and maintain social distancing to contribute to pandemic control.

There have been suspicions that China's pandemic control measures have low cost-efficiency. In response to this, Liang said by following the strategy of clearing any infections whenever an outbreak occurs, China has rapidly and effectively reduced infection and mortality rates. Although the method may disturb the lives of patients and their close contacts on the short term, on the long term, it can help social and economic life return to normal faster after the outbreak is brought under control.

He added that whether China will persist with its current control methods depends on multiple factors, such as the global pandemic situation, the mutation of the virus and China's vaccination rate.

"The pandemic is a dynamic process and the prevention and control measures should change in accordance with its development," Liang said. "We will closely monitor the global pandemic progress to gauge the risk of the pandemic, accelerate vaccination and make timely adjustments to the relevant control measures."

Printed edition title: War on the Virus  

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson 

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