Europe must adopt stricter measures to contain spread of virus: China chief epidemiologist

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- The epidemiologist and pulmonologist leading the fight against coronavirus in China urged Europe to adopt more proactive measures, identify infections faster and impose stricter quarantines and restrictions, Zhong Nanshan told reporters on Wednesday.

“I believe Europe is facing the first round of the epidemic. I think they should take more proactive measures. Don’t wait until it is very late and hurts,” Zhong said at a press conference in the southern city of Guangzhou.

“Based on my observations European countries have also implemented practices like lockdowns. But we talk about still going out for coffee and gatherings… this is not how these lockdowns work,” the Chinese pulmonologist, who played a leading role in the fight against the SARS epidemic in 2003, continued.

Zhong added that other efforts were necessary, such as isolating anyone who had come into close contact with persons infected by Covid-19, even if they did not show symptoms.

The expert said carrying out more virus detection tests was of utmost importance to contain the spread of the pandemic and to protect health professionals working on the front line.

According to the doctor, in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, the city where the outbreak originated, awareness of the virus and protection measures were very low at first which favoured the rapid spread of the respiratory disease, which in turn affected many health professionals.

“Many doctors who were on the front line were infected. If they become infected, confidence is undermined to win the battle.

“We sent nearly 40,000 doctors from other cities who were equipped and had the necessary capacity to Wuhan. They were not infected. Protection is key.”

The most important thing, said Zhong, is to “protect yourself first and then others.”

Crowds must be avoided at all costs, people should wear a mask and above all “do tests, tests and more tests” to detect new cases, he said.

The test, isolate and trace method has allowed China to slow down the pandemic.

The pulmonologist also warned that the virus should not be allowed to spread.

Some countries, have appealed to the importance of herd immunity and allowing the population to come into contact with the disease but Zhong said: “There is no data that guarantees that a cured person will be so for life.”

“You should not rely on social immunity but on international cooperation,” the expert continued.

“Different countries have a different understanding of how to fight the virus, but we should share experiences. We are working towards the same goal. This is an epidemic and no country is safe,” he warned.

Although China has declared that the peak of transmissions has ended, the country needs to “remain alert”, especially for cases imported from other countries, according to Zhong.

“In China, we now have to work on prevention as we try to return to work and production. We managed to turn the peak of the epidemic around thanks to what we did in Hubei. If we had not done so, the situation would now be very different,” the Chinese expert said.

He also pointed out that, according to the data, the average mortality rate of the virus is between 1 and 2 percent of those infected.

The National Health Commission of China reported on Wednesday that Covid-19 has caused 3,237 deaths and 80,894 infections since the start of the outbreak. Over 55,000 people have recovered.

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