Key Words to Understand China: The Fight Against COVID-19
I. Decisions by the Central Leadership
1. Saving Lives Is of Paramount Importance.
Safety and health are the basic needs of the people. Xi Jinping attaches great importance to these two issues, and has given instructions on ensuring people’s health and safety on different occasions.
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19), the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has made thorough arrangements and strengthened centralized and unified leadership over the prevention and control of the epidemic. On January 25, 2020, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held a meeting and listened to a report on epidemic prevention and control. Xi Jinping presided over the meeting and emphasized that “saving lives is of paramount importance.”
He demanded Party committees and governments at all levels to give top priority to people’s safety and health, and take epidemic control a most important work in the immediate future. He required effective measures to be taken to contain the outbreak.
“Saving lives is of paramount importance.” – This echoes the CPC’s mission of serving the people whole-heartedly and its principle of taking the interests of the people above everything else. It is the CPC’s pledge to save lives and cure patients at all costs. It will spare no effort and adopt all measures necessary to combat the epidemic. For the current time, other work should make way for the efforts to protect the safety and health of the people. Implementing the decisions by the CPC Central Committee, the whole country will take comprehensive actions in social mobilization, deployment, and prevention and control of the epidemic.
2. Go Where There Is Epidemic, Fight It till It Perishes.
Epidemic prevention and control directly concerns the safety and health of the people, the overall stability of the economy and society, and the country’s opening up to the outside world.
After hearing the report on epidemic prevention and control at the meeting held on January 25, 2020, Xi Jinping ordered, “Go where there is epidemic, fight it till it perishes.”
This is an important deployment made by the CPC Central Committee at a critical moment. It reflects the Chinese Communists’ care about the people, who always put the people in the first place. It requires leading officials at all levels, especially major ones, to go deep into the front line of epidemic prevention and control, fulfill their responsibilities by giving timely guidance, closely monitoring the situation and taking prompt actions. Epidemic prevention and control is a race against time. Concerted efforts must be taken to treat patients and contain the spread of the virus at the fastest speed, without even the slightest hesitation. All-out efforts are need to carry out epidemic monitoring, screening, and early warning, and to curb the spread of the virus racing against the clock. Enormous efforts must be exerted to implement the most effective measures, mobilize the people to the largest extent, and build a solid line of defense against the epidemic.
3. Epidemic Prevention and Control: Top of Current Agenda
The novel coronavirus epidemic is a major public health emergency with the fastest spread and the widest range of infections, and has been the most difficult to prevent and control in China since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.
At the meeting held on January 25, 2020, Xi Jinping emphasized that epidemic prevention and control must be put at the top of current agenda. This underscored the work in this emergency period and set clear coordinates for resolutely winning the war without smoke.
Putting epidemic prevention and control at the top of current agenda – This is because people’s lives are of supreme importance, and people’s health and safety are the top priority. China will save people’s lives at any cost, safeguard their health despite any difficulties, and prevent and control the epidemic without shying away from any hardships. As the epidemic spreads, China will do everything possible to combat it. Only by taking the problem more seriously and implementing more thoughtful measures, can the country outrun the epidemic, gain the initiative to win the war, and effectively curb its spread.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, Xi Jinping has paid close attention to and made important instructions on virus prevention and control. The CPC Central Committee has issued a circular on strengthening Party leadership and providing strong political support for the battle. The Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control has made timely study and arrangements for relevant work, and the Central Guiding Team dispatched to Hubei province has actively carried out their work. The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council was developed for overall planning and inter-agency coordination, which has promptly solved many pressing issues in epidemic prevention and control. In the meantime, Party committees and governments at all levels have taken active steps to outrun the epidemic. A strong joint force to battle the epidemic has been formed.
4. United to Take Science-Based and Targeted Measures and Fight the Epidemic with Confidence
At the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on January 25, 2020, Xi Jinping called on the whole nation to be united, take science-based and targeted measures against the epidemic, and have confidence in conquering the virus. This is a general requirement by the CPC Central Committee for COVID-19 prevention and control based on a thorough analysis of the situation.
Having confidence implies that the Chinese nation has the strength and ability to contain the spread of the virus and win the battle in the end. Working in great unity, the whole country follows the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and Party committees and governments at all levels fully understand the importance and urgency of epidemic prevention and control, and implement the decisions and arrangements made by the CPC Central Committee in real earnest. Defeating the epidemic requires a strong scientific underpinning. In its science-based response to the outbreak, China has engaged both Chinese and foreign experts in relevant fields to carry out scientific research on COVID-19 prevention and control, enhance cooperation between scientific research and clinical trials, and race against time to explore rapid and simple ways of diagnosis and develop vaccines and effective drugs. Taking targeted measures means to adopt varied prevention and control policies according to different regional conditions. While endeavoring to protect Hubei province and its capital city Wuhan, all-out efforts are also made to fight the epidemic in Beijing. The areas that are not key places for virus prevention and control will adopt region-specific targeted approaches based on an assessment of local risks.
5. A Nation’s War on the Epidemic
During an inspection in Beijing on February 10, 2020, Xi Jinping encouraged the people to be determined to fight and win the battle against the epidemic by mobilizing all resources to control the spread of the virus. He has reiterated this resolution on different occasions.
Epidemic prevention and control is a war that involves every one of the nation. The epidemic directly endangers the people’s health and their living standards. The government must closely rely on the people to fight and win the battle against the epidemic. Party committees and governments at all levels must “take the interests of the people above everything else,” give top priority to people’s safety and health, and put epidemic prevention and control at the top of current agenda. They must bear in mind the fundamental purpose of the Party, spare no effort to combat the epidemic, and enhance the people’s sense of security. In the face of the epidemic, Party committees and governments at all levels should “pool the strength of the people” and extensively mobilize, organize, and rally the people while playing the role of exemplary vanguard.
Epidemic prevention and control is a war that calls for all-out efforts. Party committees and governments at all levels must act in a coordinated national response and follow unified command, coordination and dispatch. They need to acquire relevant knowledge and skills of epidemic prevention, have greater confidence and be more resolved to defeat the epidemic. They must unite as one like a fortress, fully implement the joint prevention and control measures, put up an effective defense, and build a strong synergy against the virus. They must know that epidemic prevention and control is not an issue merely about medicine and health, but a task that demands all-out efforts, and all work must provide support for winning the war against the epidemic.
Epidemic prevention and control is a war to stop the epidemic from spreading. Facing the menacing, highly contagious and fast-spreading epidemic, all Party members and officials must get prepared for this unprecedented test. They must keep up the spirit, stay true to the mission of the Chinese Communists, and bravely shoulder the responsibility. They must devote more time and energy to the front line of epidemic prevention and control, pool the strength of every citizen, strive to overcome all kinds of difficulties and obstacles, and hand over a perfect answer sheet to the Party and the people.
II. Anti-Epidemic Guidelines and Arrangements
1. The Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control
At its meeting on January 25, 2020, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee decided to form a Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control (“Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control” for short).
The Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control is the decision-making and command body set up by the CPC Central Committee in response to the urgent need for epidemic combat across the country. It works under the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, and exercises unified leadership and command over epidemic prevention and control. Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and premier of the State Council, heads the group, and Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, serves as deputy head.
On January 26, Li Keqiang presided over the first meeting of the Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control. The meeting concluded that as epidemic prevention and control is currently in a critical stage, Party committees and governments at all levels must unify their thinking and actions by following the guiding principles of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s instructions and the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau. They must put epidemic prevention and control at the top of their current agenda, and take more decisive, more powerful and orderly, more scientific and thorough measures to effectively curb the spread of the virus.
To further tighten epidemic prevention and control in Hubei province and Wuhan city, the meeting decided to dispatch a Central Guiding Team there to promote the frontline work. It also decided to allocate resources nationwide to first meet the urgent need for medical workers and medical supplies in Hubei and Wuhan and to ensure the supply of daily necessities for the citizens there as the whole country is battling the virus.
On February 22, the Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control issued a document on protection and care for medical workers, putting forward 10 measures in detail. By February 24, the Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control had held 11 meetings to study and deploy epidemic prevention and control work.
2. The Central Guiding Team Dispatched to Hubei Province and Other Severely-Hit Regions
Wuhan city and Hubei province are the top priorities of epidemic prevention and control, and the main battlefields of the war against the virus. On January 25, 2020, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee decided to dispatch a Central Guiding Team to Hubei province and other regions severely hit by the epidemic, aiming to comprehensively strengthen epidemic prevention and control on the front line.
The Central Guiding Team has three major duties: (1) to guide and supervise Hubei province and Wuhan city to implement the arrangements made by the central leadership; (2) to guide Hubei and Wuhan in the battle against the epidemic and increase prevention and control forces; and (3) to investigate negative, wrong and irresponsible actions, supervise local rectification, and deal with those problems in accordance with laws and discipline.
Led by Sun Chunlan, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and vice premier of the State Council, the Central Guiding Team arrived in Wuhan on January 27. Empowered to comprehensively strengthen frontline epidemic prevention and control, the Central Guiding Team mainly carries out work in five aspects: (1) to strengthen prevention and control at the source, make arrangements such as traffic restraint and extension of Spring Festival break, in order to interrupt epidemic transmission; (2) to do everything possible to deploy resources to satisfy the need for medical workers and medical supplies, increase hospital beds, and ensure the supply of daily necessities for the local residents; (3) to coordinate the efforts in treating and curing patients, building temporary treatment centers, thorough infection screening, classified and multi-level treatment for patients, and management of the four groups of people who are confirmed patients, suspected cases, febrile and close contacts, and promote the use of traditional Chinese medicine in disease treatment; (4) to organize the conducting of epidemiological investigations, tracking and studying of the source of infection and the route and mechanism of transmission, and timely analysis of the epidemic trend; and (5) to clarify the duties for administrative divisions, industry sectors, units, and individuals and ensure their full performance.
The Central Guiding Team has worked alongside with the people in Wuhan and other places of Hubei province, and focused their work on epidemic prevention and control, treating and curing patients, and ensuring medical supplies, thus playing a key role on the front line of the battle.
3. Region-Specific and Multi-Level Approaches to Epidemic Prevention and Control
In addition to science-based and targeted measures against the virus, the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on January 25, 2020 also required sector-specific guidance on epidemic prevention and control.
On February 17, the inter-agency task force under the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council issued a package of guidelines on taking science-based, targeted, region-specific, and multi-level measures for epidemic prevention and control. According to the guidelines, all provincial governments and central departments must enforce the central leadership’s requirements by focusing on key issues, strengthening coordination, giving sector-specific guidance, and applying different policies for different areas. They are required to take region-specific, multi-level targeted approaches to epidemic prevention and control in accordance with the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases and the Regulations on the Urgent Handling of Public Health Emergencies, and coordinate epidemic prevention and control and restoration of economic and social order.
Region-specific and multi-level approaches are meant to suit the specific features and epidemic situations of different regions. In line with the guidelines, differentiated policies will be adopted for epidemic control and restoration of economic and social order in different places. Counties and other county-level administrative regions (cities, districts and banners) need to conduct a comprehensive analysis of local population and epidemic severity, make science-based classification of the virus risk, and take appropriate prevention and control strategies accordingly. They should divide their management and control grids into smaller pieces, and urban and rural communities, government bodies, enterprises and institutions, social organizations and individuals within their jurisdiction must follow relevant rules for virus prevention and control.
Hubei province and Wuhan city are required to take more stringent, more targeted, and more effective measures to curb the spread of the epidemic within their jurisdictions and beyond, and ensure the supply of all kinds of materials and basic necessities for the local people. Beijing, capital of China, must make every effort to fight the epidemic, resolutely guard against imported cases and spread of the virus within the city, and cut off the source of infection to ensure the city’s safety. Other areas should strengthen organization and leadership, abide by relative laws and regulations, carry out differentiated epidemic control, implement relative requirements on epidemic prevention and treatment of patients, and restore the order of production and life in an orderly manner.
4. Prompt Release of Accurate Epidemic Information
The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee demanded at its meeting on January 25, 2020 prompt release of accurate information on the epidemic and timely response to concerns at home and aboard. It also required providing timely updates of the epidemic with the World Health Organization (WHO), relevant countries and regional organizations, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and Taiwan province, and enhancing cooperation in an all-out response to the epidemic, in order to jointly safeguard regional and global health safety.
Speaking to a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau on February 3, Xi Jinping required frequent release of authoritative information by relevant agencies at different levels, addressing existing problems squarely, and responding to public concerns in a timely and specialist manner with a clear aim. At another meeting held on February 23 to promote nationwide epidemic control and economic and social development, he urged improving the release of epidemic information, which shall be made in an open, transparent, timely and accurate manner in accordance with the law.
Following the arrangements and requirements by the central leadership, the State Council Information Office has since January 26 held press conferences at irregular intervals on the joint efforts in virus prevention and control. On February 15, it for the first time moved its pressroom to Wuhan, the forefront of epidemic prevention and control. Starting from January 27, the National Health Commission (NHC) has held press conferences every morning. Starting from February 3, the inter-agency task force under the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council has held press conferences daily. Hubei province and other regions severely hit by the epidemic also hold press conferences every day.
By releasing latest information about the epidemic, prevention and control measures and effects, these press conferences have taken the initiative in responding to public concerns and quashing rumors, thus have further improved the effectiveness of information disclosure.
III. Effective Measures
1. Early Detection, Reporting, Isolation and Treatment
“Early detection, reporting, isolation and treatment” is a definite principle put forward by the central leadership for epidemic prevention and control, and it is also an important measure taken by the country to fight the virus.
On January 20, 2020, the High-level Expert Group of the NHC pointed out that against the rapid escalation of the virus, early detection and early isolation are the most effective means to block it and keep transmission to a minimum. The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on January 25 demanded monitoring, screening and early warning be conducted to ensure early detection, reporting, isolation and treatment.
As epidemic prevention and control entered a critical stage, the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council on February 7 issued a document on the responsibilities of different parties during epidemic prevention and control. The document emphasized the urgency of early detection and early isolation of infected people to effectively prevent the transmission of the virus. For this end, it is necessary to deploy preventive methods at an early stage and perform meticulous community grid management. It is also necessary to further improve the testing capability, optimize the diagnostic process, shorten diagnosis time, and carry out diagnosis and treatment simultaneously.
At the national meeting for coordinating China’s epidemic control and economic and social development, held on February 23, Xi Jinping reiterated the principle of early detection, reporting, isolation and treatment. He urged more efforts to resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic, hospitalize all confirmed patients, conduct thorough tests of all suspected patients, and isolate all those close contacts. He demanded tracking and managing every potential risk without leaving any dead corners.
With the efforts made in “early detection, reporting, isolation and treatment,” the spread of the epidemic has been initially curbed, and phased effects have been achieved in the prevention and control of the epidemic.
2. Huoshenshan Hospital
Isolation and admission of patients are the key tasks in epidemic prevention and control. To ensure that all suspected and confirmed cases could be received and treated, Wuhan decided on January 23, 2020 to build an emergency hospital near Zhiyin Lake in Caidian District, following the practice of Beijing when the capital built the Xiaotangshan Hospital during its fight against SARS in 2003. Named “Huoshenshan” (“Fire God Mountain”), the new hospital was designed to treat patients suffering from novel coronavirus pneumonia.
After the decision was made and preparatory work was launched, the designers completed the site plans within five hours and delivered all design and construction drawings within 60 hours. More than 7,000 construction workers rushed to assist Wuhan. By working around the clock in three shifts and completing the tasks of communications infrastructure, land leveling, surveying and mapping, ward installation, and power construction, they were able to complete the construction in merely 10 days. On February 2, Huoshenshan Hospital was officially delivered to the medical units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that came earlier to assist Wuhan.
With a total floor space of 34,000 square meters, Huoshenshan Hospital has 1,000 beds for intensive care units and general wards. It has supportive departments covering infection control, clinical laboratory, special treatment, and radiodiagnosis.
On February 3, with the approval of Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission, 1,400 PLA medical personnel were deployed to staff the new Huoshenshan Hospital. Many of them have worked at Xiaotangshan Hospital in the fight against SARS, assisted Sierra Leone and Liberia in the fight against Ebola, and have rich experience in the treatment of infectious diseases.
On February 4, the National Healthcare Security Administration announced to include Huoshenshan Hospital as one designated hospital of medical insurance, and the new hospital would adopt the charging standards of public hospitals. On the same day, Huoshenshan Hospital began to receive confirmed patients. On February 13, the hospital discharged the first group of cured patients.
The construction of Huoshenshan Hospital shows the “Chinese speed” at a time of urgency. During the construction of the hospital, a 24-hour live broadcast was streamed on the construction site. Every day, tens of millions of Chinese and foreign netizens voluntarily acted as “cloud supervisors” to root for the builders on the front line.
3. Leishenshan Hospital
On January 25, 2020, as the construction of Huoshenshan Hospital had just begun, Wuhan decided to build another emergency hospital near Huangjia Lake, Jiangxia District. The new hospital, named “Leishenshan” (“Thunder God Mountain”) was designed to treat patients of novel coronavirus pneumonia diagnosed in fever clinics or transferred from other hospitals.
In the face of the epidemic, the designers and builders counted against the clock. On January 26, the overall design plan of the hospital was completed; on January 27, large-scale construction began; on January 28, the construction and renovation of communication base station infrastructure saw completion; and on January 29, power supporting engineering was completed and began to supply electricity to the hospital. At the peak period of construction, more than 10,000 builders and nearly 1,500 sets of machinery and equipment fought together, night and day.
After more than 10 days of construction, Leishenshan Hospital was put into use on February 8, officially taken over by Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, and the first group of patients were admitted that night.
The hospital covers an area of nearly 80,000 square meters and is divided into three parts: isolation area for the patients, living area for the medical staff, and logistics area, with a total of 1,600 beds. On February 18, the first cured patients in Leishenshan Hospital were discharged.
Like Huoshenshan Hospital, Leishenshan Hospital was also a major project for China to fight the novel coronavirus epidemic. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core, the Party organizations of all construction units had unswervingly implemented the decisions and deployments made by the CPC Central Committee. Ordinary workers united as one, spared no effort, and created a miracle. Construction of the hospital has demonstrated the institutional advantage of the system of socialism, that is, by concentrating efforts on major initiatives, a vital guarantee was formed for winning the war against the epidemic.
4. Temporary Treatment Centers
Temporary treatment center, better known as “mobile cabin hospital” in China, is a modern mobile medical system that takes medical cabin as the carrier and integrates the functions of medical treatment and clinical technology. Composed of medical treatment units, ward units and technical support units, temporary treatment centers are mainly used in major disaster rescue, emergency support, itinerant medical services, and other tasks. With such features as good mobility, fast deployment and strong environmental adaptability, these improvised hospitals are capable of undertaking medical rescue tasks at emergencies and therefore are valued by many countries.
China began to design and develop its own temporary treatment center system in the 1990s. The second-generation temporary treatment centers successively carried out medical rescue tasks in earthquake relief in Wenchuan and Yushu.
In February 2020, facing the spread of COVID-19, Wuhan transformed several gymnasiums, convention and exhibition centers, training centers, industrial park factories, vocational high schools and other venues into temporary treatment centers to isolate mild cases and cases under observation. These emergency hospitals have complete functions and can carry out emergency treatment, surgical treatment, clinical tests and other tasks. They also have a team of psychologists to provide psychological support and counseling for patients.
On February 16, the National Development and Reform Commission arranged 230 million yuan (32.81 million dollars) in the central budget to support the temporary treatment centers in Wuhan to improve their facilities and add necessary medical equipment to enhance their treatment capacities. By February 22, 16 temporary treatment centers had been put into operation in Wuhan, offering more than 12,000 beds.
Establishing temporary treatment centers is an effective measure to ensure patient isolation, decrease patient density, expand treatment capacity and control the spread of the epidemic. Temporary treatment centers have played an important role in providing emergency support for the national public health system.