Fighting Second Wave of COVID-19 in Autumn and Winter: China’s Lessons

Article by Mr. WANG Sheng, Charge d’affaires,a.i. of the Embassy of China in Cyprus 

In recent days, Covid-19 pandemic in Cyprus has resurged significantly with daily confirmed cases hitting new records, imposing a great threat to the health and safety of the Cypriot people. As ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle puts, friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies (φιλία εστί μία ψυχή εν δυσί σώμασιν ενοικουμένη μεταφραση). As an old friend and good partner of Cyprus, China is concerned about the situation facing the island. Similarly, cluster infections were found in Beijing’s Xinfadi Agricultural Products Wholesale Market back in June this year. The rebound occurred as social and economic activities gradually resumed. Given the similarities between the situation there and then and here and now, I believe some lessons can be drawn.

Beijing Xinfadi Market is the largest agricultural product wholesale market in China and in Asia that sees more than 11,700 people, including vendors and market management staff with high mobility and scope of influence. This significantly increased the difficulty of disease prevention and control. After the Covid-19 outbreak in this market, Beijing Municipal Government responded quickly by launching targeted prevention and control measures. Through arduous efforts and scientific and effective measures, the results were remarkable: no more increase in local confirmed cases within 25 days, end of Covid-19 spreading within 40 days, and all 336 cases cured and discharged within 56 days without a single death. China’s experience in dealing with the pandemic rebound is threefold:

Firstly, quick response. Time is precious. We must race against time in fighting the pandemic. The Beijing Municipal Government immediately closed the Xinfadi Market and reassigned risk levels to different regions; China’s National Health Commission immediately dispatched a team of experts to guide the prevention and control work; front-line health institutions acted quickly to receive and treat patients and conducted tracking and investigation of close contacts of confirmed cases. These rapid and strong measures forestalled the wide spread of the virus, paving the way for a complete control.

Secondly, targeted approach. The outbreak in the Xinfadi Market did not happen in the initial “complete lockdown” stage, but at a time when China tried to resume work and production while maintaining prevention and control. This required us to be problem-oriented and formulate targeted policies. Beijing introduced zoning and hierarchical management, with communities as the smallest units for prevention and control, dynamic and real-time risk control of medium- and high-risk communities, and targeted management of affected areas to minimize the impact of the epidemic on the economy and society.

Thirdly, all-round control. Large-scale nucleic acid testing played a decisive role in quickly discovering and controlling the source of infection and effectively blocking the chain of transmission. Beijing urgently allocated personnel from hospitals, community health service centers, CDCs and other institutions at all levels to conduct comprehensive testing with Xinfadi Market as the epicenter. The total number of samples taken exceeded 12 million, and more than half of the 336 confirmed cases were found by nucleic acid tests. New technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence were employed to identify the chain of transmission, leaving no place ignored and no one left behind. For a single case, Chinese health authorities even issued a 63-page epidemiological report of 25,000 words.

China’s lessons can be valuable to Cyprus in that they have shown that Covid-19 is controllable, no matter how fierce it is. It can be said that the approach of fighting Covid-19 has changed in light of current circumstances, from an “encounter battle” when we knew little about the virus to an “annihilation battle” via scientific prevention and control based on the virus characteristics, from the early independent actions to a concerted battle. Of course, we are fully aware that China and Cyprus have different national conditions and cultures, and that one country’s experience may not be fully applicable in other countries. We are confident that Cyprus will explore more of effective and feasible control measures compatible to its own national conditions based on the guidelines of WHO and the situation on the ground.

From our previous anti-Covid-19 practice, we have summarised three elements for successful epidemic control: first is to pursue the concept of “putting life and people first” and strengthen government leadership; second is self-disciplined people who understand and are willing to cooperate with the government measures; third is a professional medical team that commits to scientific methods in fighting the epidemic. Seen from the fight against the first wave of the pandemic, Cyprus undoubtedly possesses the above three elements.

Therefore, I firmly believe that there is no winter that will not end and no spring that will not come. With the successful experience of dealing with the first wave, and the scientific prevention and control concepts shared by China and Cyprus, we are confident that China and Cyprus will win the battle against the Covid-19 in autumn and winter. China stands ready to continue to provide its assistance and support for Cyprus within its capacity. Keep going, Cyprus!

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