Due to its rapid and comprehensive measures against the virus, China has taken the attention of the world and the attention of the Turkish people in particular. How did the Chinese government, who eventually defeated the virus, achieve this? Tunc Akkoc (of the Aydınlık newspaper) asked Cui Wei, the Consul General of China in Istanbul.
Consul General Cui has said that China has relied on its experience with infectious diseases such as the SARS, and that it began to implement “the strictest, the most comprehensive and the most complementary” measures right away. Summarizing the secrets of preventing the outbreak in principles of “the four of early diagnosis, early reporting, early isolation and early treatment”, Cui also stressed the Chinese system and its ability to mobilize all the forces across the country. Here are Consul General Cui Wei’s answers to questions in Istanbul.
‘IT STARTED WITH PNEUMONIA’
When was the Covid-19 virus first detected? After the first diagnosis, how much time it had take to determine the virus would turn out to be an epidemic? Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan? Why Wuhan? What made Wuhan different?
First of all, I would like to tell you about the process since the emergence of the new type of coronavirus occurred. In December 2019, unidentified types of pneumonia patients in Wuhan began to appear. On December 27, outbreak prevention and early control warnings were launched locally. The outbreak was reported to the Central Government on December 29. On December 30, the Central Government had implemented the emergency mechanisms. As of January 2, the gene sequence of the virus had been identified and the responses against the outbreak had begun. In mid-January, large-scale measures and control efforts had begun. On January 23, the entire city of Wuhan was quarantined. In late January, specialized hospitals and cabin hospitals were built, health professionals from all over the country had mobilized to provide support and assistance for Wuhan. Until mid-February, local hospitals with 40,000 bed capacities were built to treat the infected people and 40,000 healthcare professionals from other provinces had begun their work in these hospitals.
Again in the mid-February, within the other regions of China, an approach of crisis management was applied parallel to the seriousness of the situation. In places where the situation is mild, people have already returned back to their jobs. After the March 10, all cabin hospitals were closed since they had accomplished their duties, and the healthcare professionals from the other cities and regions were sent back home. As of today, the number of confirmed cases in China is 6,763, the number of suspected is 104, the number of patients treated is 71,284 and the number of dead is 3,253 people.
In this whole process, we have shared the measures we have taken, the research results and all the experience we have gained with the WHO, and the WHO has consistently reported these and guided the other countries.
WHO experts have made it clear that the first reported case traced back to Wuhan, but the origin and cause of the virus is still in the process of being investigated. Therefore, it is not right to associate a virus whose origin and cause have not yet been clearly determined, with a country or region. The World Health Organization and the international community have openly opposed stigmatizing and linking the virus to a specific country or region. Both the WHO and the Chinese officials have repeatedly stressed that all countries should pay more attention to this outbreak. The WHO also said that China had saved some time for the world and it shows the world the fact that this outbreak can be prevented. Time needs to be used very carefully and the measures must be taken, but many countries have ignored the WHO’s warnings on these issues.
I would like to stress that the fight against the new type of Coronavirus is an important part in humankind’s struggle against infectious diseases. The Covid-19 outbreak is now spreading rapidly around the world and expanding its sphere of infection. The most important thing is to cooperate as the international community on the fight against this epidemic, and to protect human health and wellbeing. The Turkish government is paying great attention to the fight against this epidemic and is taking strong measures to achieve positive results.
‘WE HAVE TAKEN FAST AND EFFICIENT ACTIONS’
The whole world accepts that China has taken quite fast and comprehensive measures against the virus… Relying on which experiences and traditions, did the Chinese government take such a quick caution? When you look at the results, what was the most decisive of China’s measures?
Since the outbreak started, the Chinese Government had established a national prevention and control system, based on its experience with infectious diseases such as SARS. It had begun to implement the strictest, the most comprehensive and the most complementary measures. The secret to prevent the outbreak relies on the four principles of “early diagnosis, early reporting, early isolation and early treatment”.
This “System of Four” as we mentioned, was provided with the outstanding support of China’s policies and its government system, as well as its national power. In the fight against this epidemic, China has benefited from its ability to mobilize all of its forces in response to major problems across the country and has had strong support from the Chinese people within their framework of understanding. In just 72 hours, we detected the gene sequence of the Coronavirus, and developed a test kit which was effective within five days. We built two specialized hospitals with 2,500 bed capacity in 10 days from scratch. In roughly one and a half days, we opened 16 hospitals with 13,000 beds in total. We repurposed 24 of our existing hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. We sent more than 40,000 medical professionals to Wuhan, consisting of more than 300 medical divisions both within the civilian duty and the army.
In a short period of time, we have found few effective drugs amongst tens of thousands of existing drugs, integrated them with the traditional Chinese medicine, and published a treatment handguide. At the same time, we are still working on vaccine research. $13 billion funding was allocated by the Central Government and one-on-one assistance from 19 other provinces, for the metropolitan areas and other various regions of Hubei was maintained. These efforts show the greatness, speed and efficiency of China.
‘THIS IS HUMANITY’S PROBLEM, MUTUAL ASSISTANCE IS NECESSARY’
Have any other countries helped you in this process?
In the fight against this epidemic, many countries, including Turkey, have generously provided the medical supplies to China. This is a reflection of the ideals of international morality and mutual aid. On the Chinese side, we are very grateful.
The virus is a common enemy for all humanity, therefore, the international community must strengthen its cooperation against the epidemic. In the process of fighting the epidemic, China has sent teams of specialist medical professionals to various countries and regions in order to prevent and control the outbreak, pursuing a principle that this is a problem of all mankind, and we provided medical supplies such as masks and test kits, for many countries. With the efforts of the international community, I hope that we will prevent this epidemic and prevail over this virus as soon as possible.
‘CLINIC TESTS FOR THE VACCINE BEGAN ON MARCH 17’
At what stage is the vaccination research in China? Can you give us a date for an effective vaccine?
After identifying the gene sequence, we have started researching for the vaccine, have established several teams for the research of multiple vaccines with different directives, and some progress was also made. On the evening of March 17, one of the teams received an approval to proceed to the Covid-19 recombinant vaccine clinical testing phase. After determining the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, eliminating the potential side effects as required by Chinese law and in international conventions, and after the approval of the relevant testing departments with the clinical testing phase, we hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be ready.
‘THE SERVICE SECTOR HAS DECLINED, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE HAS RISEN’
China is the production center of the world. But now there is a widespread quarantine, orders and shipments have been severely affected. How will this affect the Chinese economy? From China’s perspective, would you agree with comments that “the virus will destroy the world economy so significantly we will see a 1929-like depression”?
The effects of this outbreak on the Chinese economy are mainly seen in the consumption and the service sectors. In 2019, consumption’s contribution to the growth of the economy was at 57.8 percent. But right now, we can say that demands have to be delayed rather than cancelled completely in the consumption, which will naturally reappear after the outbreak.
Within the digital economy and the artificial intelligence sector, there have been huge increases during the epidemic process, enabling the development for the new models. Looking from a different perspective, the outbreak has accelerated the structural transformation of the Chinese economy and a supply-based reform.
Another noticeable effect was the difficulties in returning back to work during the precautionary process, and there were declines in production. This is an inevitable outcome of preventing the epidemic. After intensifying our efforts to control the outbreak in a particular area in the short term, we began to actively encourage production to be returned back to normal in the mid-February. Currently, in several states across the country, 90% of the large-scale corporations and 60% of small and medium sized enterprises have started production again. For the SMEs, our government has offered a large number of privileges on credits, subsidies, taxes and tariff reductions, taking measures to ensure that companies start their production as soon as possible and to avoid the difficulties they face.
The long-term development of the Chinese economy is not disrupted. China has a large market, a full industrial infrastructure and the world’s largest middle-class population. In addition, the Chinese economy is in an extremely strong and resilient situation. During the SARS outbreak, China’s economy contributed only 8% of the world economy. We still continue to grow in a v-shaped recovery and now make up the 18% of the world economy, we are quite confident in this regard.
‘THE US STILL HAS NOT MADE A STATEMENT’
The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated on his personal Twitter account that the “the virus was brought to Wuhan by the US Army.” How deep are the suspicions within the Chinese government regarding this statement?
Some senior US officials constantly use the phrase “the Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus”, and we and the WHO oppose this. Wuhan hosted the World Military Games on October 18-27, 2019, and the United States sent a delegation of nearly 400 people to Wuhan to participate in the games. On March 11 2020, the director of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said that “some people in the United States may have died of ‘influenza’ in theory, but this could also be caused by the Covid-19 virus.” This has raised suspicion all over the world. On March 12th, the Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry posted on Twitter, “When did America’s first Covid-19 case occur? To how many people did it spread?
What is the name of the hospital these patients are being treated at? Maybe the US Army brought this outbreak to Wuhan. It is time for America to be transparent and announce the numbers to the public. Right now, America needs to make an announcement to us”.
From the very beginning, China argues that this is a scientific problem, and that scientists and experts need to be heard. I am forwarding the Spokesperson’s statements, don’t you think we should request the information to be kept transparent and open? I can also add that the United States has not made any statements yet.
‘DO NOT BELIEVE IN RUMORS, FOLLOW THE GOVERNMENT”S DIRECTIVES’
How do you evaluate the measures that Turkey has taken? What are your recommendations for Turkey?
On March 18, President Erdogan explained the steps and measures that Turkey will take, one by one. He has repeatedly stressed that the sole purpose of the Turkish government is to protect its citizens by acting responsibly. I should point out that China is willing to remain in communication with Turkey, to share the mutual experiences and practices, to work together in the fight against the epidemic, and to contribute positively to the healthcare and wellbeing of the two countries and the people of the entire world.
If I had to make any suggestions, I would tell the media outlets:, do not believe in rumors, do not panic, follow the government’s directives. That is the best thing to do.