UPDATE: Chinese virus fighters get top honor

By Cao Siqi and Chen Qingqing Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/11 22:08:40

China’s recognition of science contrasts the US

Video: GT

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday signed a presidential order to award epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan the Medal of the Republic, the highest state honor, for his outstanding contributions in China's fight against the COVID-19 epidemic. 

This is the second time for China to award the medal. The first was awarded last year to pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou, Yuan Longping, a Chinese agronomist and educator, and Shen Liangliang, a soldier of the Chinese peacekeeping force in Mali.

Along with Zhong, China's top medical adviser Zhang Boli, top Chinese vaccine researcher Chen Wei and Zhang Dingyu, dean of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, were awarded national honorary titles, "the People's Hero."

Awarding the top honor to four prominent coronavirus fighters in China showcases the core spirit of the Chinese people in respecting science and professionalism - two key factors that helped the country win the battle against COVID-19, experts said.

It shows China's national spirit of devotion, and the unity that China possesses in the face of difficulties, observers noted.

"Those four virus fighters are the backbone of our society. They bravely confronted the epidemic regardless of their own safety, which deeply impressed everyone during this hard-won fight," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Since the early stage of the epidemic, Zhong, 84, chose not to drop out, but went to the Wuhan frontline. 

During the COVID-19 epidemic, Zhong dared to speak up, pointed out the phenomenon of "person-to-person transmission," and placed great emphasis on strict prevention and control measures, the working committee for the granting of honors said in a statement on soliciting public opinion on August 3.

Zhang Boli, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and one of the top consultants in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in Central China's Hubei Province, recommended the use of traditional Chinese medicine in treating the novel coronavirus, achieving remarkable results and contributions to the prevention and control of the epidemic.

Infectious disease expert Chen from the Institute of Biotechnology under the Academy of Military Medical Sciences was awarded the national honorary title, as she contributed to basic research and vaccines for COVID-19. The vaccine developed by Chen Wei's team became the first in the world to disclose complete phase one clinical trial results, and declare a dual immune response in the recipients.

And Zhang Dingyu, who is a deputy head of the Hubei Provincial Health Commission and dean of the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, helped gain time by confirming the unknown pneumonia as the novel coronavirus.

Jinyintan is a major hospital treating coronavirus patients in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei that first reported COVID-19 cases in China. And during the epidemic, Zhang concealed his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and insisted on working on the frontline. He was praised as the "Superman President" by hospital colleagues.

The top awards draw a contrast between China and the US in treating their top scientists during the outbreak, which has become one of the decisive factors on whether a country could contain the outbreak, Su said. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the US, who is often referred to as "America's Zhong Nanshan" by Chinese netizens, has been in trouble in recent months. Not only are a large number of Americans defiant of his public health advice, but the Trump administration officials often attacked him, media reported. 

"In contrast to anti-intellectualism in the US, the Chinese government grants the highest honor to our medics, and this is why we won this battle," Su said.

Newspaper headline: Virus fighters get top honor

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