China: On the Wuhan Coronavirus

Published on January 22, 2020

On Monday evening, Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory expert and head of a high-level expert team of the National Health Commission (NHC), reported to Premier Li Keqiang at the State Council Executive Meeting in Beijing:

** It was Zhong’s view that the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan will not evolve into a massive outbreak similar in scale to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003. Unlike SARS, the pneumonia detected in Wuhan has no high fatality rate and has no “super spreader” that could cause a large number of people to become infected by the virus. Various virus monitoring and quarantine measures were quickly underway just two weeks after the coronavirus outbreak was reported.

** But Zhong nevertheless also noted to Premier Li that the outbreak is still at an early stage and warned that the number of confirmed cases is very likely to rise as massive migration could result in the spread of respiratory diseases. Premier Li stressed the stark reality the country is facing is a wider spread of the virus fueled by the Spring Festival travel rush that will see hundreds of millions of people traveling nationwide or overseas during the holidays.

** Li instructed related government departments and localities to improve response plans and called for intensified inter-agency efforts to prevent the disease from further spreading. Officials decided that in order to prevent the spread of disease, the authorities in Hubei province and Wuhan city should take strict measures to identify suspected cases and advise people with a high body temperature not to leave the city.

** Wuhan announced on Tuesday that its outbound tour groups have been banned, and local police are conducting spot checks on inbound and outbound private passenger vehicles for live poultry or wild animals. All thirty-five stationary infrared thermometers and over 300 hand-held ones have been used to screen passengers with fevers at various transport terminals in Wuhan, including the airport, railway stations, bus stations and passenger piers.

** President Xi Jinping also ordered efforts to curb virus spread Monday after human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus was confirmed. Xi stressed that the prevention and control work is crucial now due to the large passenger flows during the Spring Festival holiday.

** At the meeting, officials also decided that the cost of treating confirmed cases of pneumonia-like symptom diseases beyond medical care coverage would be fully borne by the government. The National Healthcare Security Administration will roll out a special reimbursement policy to include all drugs and medical services in payment coverage and set up a treat first pay later policy to guarantee timely treatment of infected cases.

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