People go sightseeing wearing masks at Shanghai's Pudong New Area, which is usually a crowded place of interest due to its panoramic view of the Bund, earlier this month. (Gao Erqiang/China Daily)
Shanghai team leader says foreign cities can learn from its approach
The global spread of the novel coronavirus should come under control within six months as most infection cases in foreign countries are imported and China has gained experience in coping with the outbreak, a leading Shanghai expert told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
Zhang Wenhong, the leader of the Shanghai team of experts in the treatment of cases of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, added that other factors include researchers having a better understanding of the disease.
Zhang said the key to controlling the spread of the virus lies in preventive measures as well as the scaling back and cancellation of public gatherings in major cities.
"Any city with imported cases of the virus faces a high risk as the transmission capability of the virus is fairly strong－much stronger than the SARS virus－as seen from what has happened in Wuhan, where the number of confirmed cases soared to around 48,000 after the first patients were identified in December," said Zhang, who is also director of the department of infectious diseases at Shanghai Huashan Hospital Affiliated with Fudan University.
To date, the novel coronavirus has infected people in more than 40 countries and regions. Earlier this week, at least 11 towns in northern Italy were locked down, with residents told to isolate themselves at home after the number of confirmed cases surged within a few days.
Zhang suggested that all foreign countries and regions with imported cases take precautionary measures "to run ahead" and prevent a large-scale spread among the community.
"When there's a considerable number of secondary and tertiary infection cases or those with unknown origins in a city, the situation will become dangerous as it's difficult to conduct tracing. Plus, very few countries can adopt a containment strategy that is as aggressive as China's," he said.
Zhang advised that some foreign countries could follow Shanghai's approach to controlling the spread of the virus. He noted that Shanghai, one of China's largest cities with a population of nearly 25 million residents, only has 337 confirmed infection cases as of Thursday－much lower than what some foreign scholars have predicted. In addition, there are no patients whose sources of infection were unclear.
He pointed out that the municipality has done an "excellent job" in preventing the spread of the virus by mandating that those who have returned from regions severely affected by the virus isolate themselves at home for 14 days. Shanghai authorities have also been swift in prohibiting public gatherings and shutting down scenic spots and public venues.
"We've witnessed epidemic outbreaks in some foreign countries where public gatherings are not suspended," he said. "Such an outbreak is closely related to the fact that the operations of a city or country are going on as usual."
The establishment of a hospital and social system that can quickly identify suspected patients has also proven pivotal in Shanghai's fight against the spread of the virus, Zhang said. He explained that this system involves having designated fever clinics for those who suffer from typical symptoms such as fever or difficulty breathing, and quarantining sick individuals and those they have come in close contact with for 14 days.
"Early prevention and containment of the spread of the disease has contributed to a desirable prognosis for the patients. The rate of coronavirus cases who have recovered and been discharged from hospitals in Shanghai has exceeded 80 percent, and the mortality rate is less than 1 percent," he said.