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China shares COVID-19 control experience in WHO video conference

Updated: Mar 28,2020 03:22 PM    CGTN

The World Health Organization (WHO) held a video conference on March 27 for member states to share information about the pandemic.

Health ministers of dozens of countries took part. China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore each gave a presentation on how they have been working to control the epidemic within their borders.

"The Chinese experience can mainly be summed up as earliness in four aspects — early identification, early isolation, early diagnosis, and early treatment. While doing that we have two key issues, one is prevention and control in communities, meaning we have to cut transmission at the community level," said Liang Wannian, head of COVID-19 response and disposal expert group of China's National Health Commission (NHC).

"The second is expanding the capacity of laboratory screening. When we have a suspected case we must test it right away. So it's extremely important to improve the testing capability and efficiency of the labs," he added.

While several countries expressed concerns about hospitals being overwhelmed, Ma Xiaowei, minister of China's NHC, said that it's crucial to have a mechanism that oversees the deployment and allocation of medical resources. In the case of Wuhan, gymnasiums, convention centers, and training centers were turned into temporary hospitals and quarantine facilities for mild cases, suspected cases and their close contacts, whereas designated hospitals are reserved for severely ill patients.

Participants who spoke after the presentations said they appreciate WHO organizing such exchanges. During a Q&A session, many also expressed concerns about the lack of medical supplies, such as respirators, testing kits, and drugs. In response, WHO technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove and Chief Logistics Official Paul Molinaro directed member countries to a section on the international body's website, which specifies operational support and logistics.

"The chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment is now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives," said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "WHO has shipped almost two million individual items of protective gear to 74 countries that need it most, and we're preparing to send a similar amount to a further 60 countries."

Answering questions about vaccine development, WHO's chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said both the US and China have been running clinical trials on human bodies but a vaccine is still at least 12 to 18 months away.