China likely to open schools by end of April: top medical expert

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/10 19:42:41 Last Updated: 2020/4/10 21:43:57

Zhong Nanshan, Photo: Xinhua

China is close to reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic as domestic transmissions have been largely reduced; When imported infections come under basic control, it will not be long before classes resume, the country’s top medical expert said on Friday, indicating it’s likely schools will open by the end of April. 

It’s not possible to suspend schools forever, said Zhong Nanshan, who heads a Chinese team of top experts advising the central government on its handling of the virus. As the disease can’t be completely eliminated, reopening schools will be possible as long as there isn’t a large-scale outbreak, he said. Zhong made his remarks during a videoconference call with the Chinese ambassador to South Korea and local experts on Friday.

“Generally speaking, there are two methods for dealing with highly infectious diseases. One is containment and the other is mitigation. Either would cause a significant economic downturn. The Chinese government has firmly adopted the containment method,” he said. 

The country enforced a lockdown in Wuhan, implemented nationwide prevention and control measures, released daily epidemic updates and conducted nucleic acid tests among close contacts of confirmed cases, all of which have enabled China to bring the situation under control in four weeks, Zhong said. 

However, the global pandemic continues to rage and China faces growing risks of imported infections. The country is striking a careful balance between work resumption and the prevention of a second wave of the virus. Zhong said the global situation depends on several factors including the disease itself. 

The coronavirus has mutated to become highly capable of surviving in the human body, helping it spread rapidly with a mortality rate more that 20 times that of the flu, he said. 

In some European countries, the death rate has hit 10 percent, and a vaccine should be developed as soon as possible, as herd immunity won’t work, Zhong said. 

In China, five vaccines are being developed simultaneously, Zhong said, noting that the first is an adenoviral vector vaccine, for which testing has begun. And the fully inactivate vaccines would also be soon delivered but it still needs one or two years of observation.

The global pandemic situation also depends on government’s attitudes in European countries and the US, he noted. 

China reported 38 new imported cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of imported cases in the Chinese mainland to 1,141, with the majority arriving from the UK, Russia, the US, Spain and France. 

As the country pays increasing heed to imported infections, it should pay special attention to asymptomatic patients, advised the expert. 

“They are either close contacts of confirmed patients or those from areas hard hit by the virus,” he said, noting that asymptomatic cases are also contagious. 

Global Times 


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