WHO expert team visits China for COVID-19 control

By Zhao Juecheng and Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/17 20:08:40

International experts including those from the World Health Organization (WHO) are scheduled to arrive in Beijing this weekend. Photo: Xinhua

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert team, including American experts, has arrived in Beijing and will visit South China's Guangdong Province and Southwest China's Sichuan Province to research China's prevention and control work on the novel coronavirus.

Geng Shuang, spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, made the announcement at a routine press conference on Monday. 

The team has started their activities, Geng said. 

The expert team can help China trace the virus and provide suggestions on quarantine, Chen Xi, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health of Yale University, told the Global Times on Monday. 

He noted a lack of epidemiological surveys while nationwide medical staff dash to the frontier to treat patients. 

The epidemic-stricken Hubei is not included in the international expert team's destinations, which, according to experts, is because the province is at a vital time combating the epidemic, and cannot spare time and people to receive the experts.  

Beijing, the capital of China and a vital location for the country's disease prevention and control work, should be included in the destinations, Cai Jiangnan, the director of the Center for Healthcare Management at the China Europe International Business School, told the Global Times on Monday. 

As to Guangdong, Chen said the international experts plan to go there possibly to meet Zhong Nanshan, a Guangzhou-based medical adviser for the central government and one of the leading experts in the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Zhong is known for his contributions during the SARS crisis in 2003. On January 29, Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University's Center for Infection and Immunity, flew to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, and discussed with Zhong the development of the epidemic and its prevention.

Guangdong, stricken by SARS in 2003, has become the province with the best health system. Its measures during the COVID-19 epidemic are also applaudable, which Chen believes is one of the issues that the WHO expert team wants to learn more about. 

The province is also one of the most severely affected places this time, Cai noted. As of 6 pm Monday, 1,322 confirmed cases have been reported, following Hubei. 

Sichuan reported 495 cases. The province is among the destinations as it kept frequent exchanges with the US public health field. 

Yin Li, current governor of Sichuan, obtained a doctorate in public health in Russia and used to work in the public health system. "So Sichuan is a professional choice if the experts want to learn about China's epidemic prevention and control measures," Chen said. 

"We're encouraged that an international team of experts is now on the ground in China, working closely with their Chinese counterparts to understand the COVID-19 outbreak, and to determine the next steps in the global response," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference 2020. 

According to a previous statement the WHO sent to the Global Times, the team would want to learn more about the novel coronavirus during its visit to China — from the characteristics of the virus to the public health response China put in place to try to contain the virus. 

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