Coronavirus: ‘The situation is steadily improving’

Asia and Oceania Coronavirus Watch Top Stories

By the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe

By the end of March 5, there had been 80,552 confirmed cases, including 23,784 patients who were still being treated; 482 were still suspected of being infected with the virus, and there were 3,042 deaths.

A total of 53,726 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

March 5 saw 143 new confirmed cases, 30 deaths (29 were in Hubei Province and one in Hainan Province), 102 new suspected cases and 1,681 people discharged from hospital after recovery. 

29,896 close contacts were still under medical observation. On Thursday, 5,457 people were discharged from medical observation.

By the end of March 5, 104 confirmed cases, including two deaths, had been reported in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), 10 confirmed cases in the Macao SAR, and 44 in Taiwan, including one death.

As such a preliminary trend shows, the situation is steadily improving and work and life for everyone is rapidly returning to normal. In terms of the cure rate for confirmed cases, as of March 3, it is 50.2% for Wuhan, 76.8% for cities in Hubei other than Wuhan, and 87.3% for other provinces, all registering an increase for 19 days running.

According to the World Health Organisation’s situation report on March 5, five new countries/territories/areas (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gibraltar, Hungary, Slovenia, and occupied Palestinian territory) have reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.  Globally, there had been 95,333 confirmed (2,241 new) cases, including 14,768 confirmed (2098 new) cases in 85 countries (5 new) and 267 deaths (53 new) outside China.

The Who Director-General emphasised the importance of implementing a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Educating the population, expanding surveillance, caring for patients, and strengthening preparedness systems are key to interrupting transmission.

Countries outside China with reported laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Data as of March 5:

  • South Korea: 5766 confirmed cases;
  • Japan: 317 confirmed cases;
  • Singapore: 110 confirmed cases;
  • Australia: 66 confirmed cases;
  • Malaysia: 50 confirmed cases;
  • Italy: 3089 confirmed cases;
  • France: 282 confirmed cases;
  • Germany: 262 confirmed cases;
  • Spain: 198 confirmed cases;
  • UK: 89 confirmed cases;
  • Switzerland: 56 confirmed cases;
  • Norway: 56 confirmed cases;
  • Netherlands: 38 confirmed cases;
  • Austria: 37 confirmed cases;
  • Sweden: 35 confirmed cases;
  • Iceland: 26 confirmed cases;
  • Belgium: 23 confirmed cases;
  • San Marino: 16 confirmed cases;
  • Thailand: 47 confirmed cases;
  • India: 29 confirmed cases;
  • Iran: 2922 confirmed cases;
  • Kuwait: 58 confirmed cases;
  • Bahrain: 49 confirmed cases;
  • Iraq: 36 confirmed cases;
  • UAE: 27 confirmed cases;
  • USA: 129 confirmed cases;
  • Canada: 30 confirmed cases;
  • Diamond Princess cruise ship: 706 confirmed cases;

The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) met on March 4 to discuss the priorities in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and ensuring stable economic and social progress. General Secretary Xi Jinping of the CPC Central Committee chaired the meeting and made important remarks.

Xi noted that as a result of nationwide efforts, a positive momentum is building up as the epidemic situation is turning for the better and the normal order of production and life is resuming at a faster pace. He underscored the imperative to earnestly implement the decisions made at the meeting on coordinating epidemic control and economic and social development. He urged more efforts to establish an economic and social order compatible with epidemic response and to refine measures to consolidate and sustain the hard-won momentum, which is necessary for bringing economic and social development back on track as soon as possible and for creating conditions for a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and eradicating poverty.

Xi emphasised the need to stay sober-minded about the complexities facing epidemic control and economic and social development and to coordinate different tasks with a greater sense of duty and urgency. Epidemic control in Hubei Province, especially the city of Wuhan, remains a daunting task, while risks of contagion are growing in other provinces due to greater movement and concentration of population. As such, we must continue our epidemic response with great caution. There must be no lowering of guard or slackening in control requirements, and all response measures must be fully implemented down to every detail.

Xi also stressed the need for China to deepen international cooperation on epidemic control and play its role as a responsible major country. More needs to be done to advance economic and social endeavors across the board. To be specific, targeted and well-planned measures must be taken to steadily resume work and production and ensure orderly flow of people, funds and goods, coordination between production, distribution and sales, and synergy between domestic and foreign trade, all in a bid to minimize the damage caused by the epidemic. Party committees and governments at all levels must follow the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and pursue epidemic control and socio-economic development in parallel. We must proceed in the spirit of seeking truth from facts, base our efforts on the actual situation on the ground, and resolutely guard against formalities and bureaucratism.

The meeting noted the importance of resuming work and production in the context of further opening-up. Efforts must be made to ensure the stable performance of foreign trade and foreign investment and to explore diverse international markets. Leading companies must resume work and production in a way that helps maintain stability in the global supply chain. It is also important to implement the Foreign Investment Law well, help foreign companies to overcome difficulties in resuming work and production, deliver flagship foreign investment projects, and further open up the financial and other services sectors.

On March 5, Li Keqiang, Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Premier of the State Council, and head of the Central Leading Group on Responding to the Novel Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, chaired a meeting of the leading group.

The meeting heard updates on the containment work and the epidemic situation overseas. It highlighted the need to adjust the containment measures according to a region-specific and tiered approach. Wuhan and Hubei Province should remain the top priority, and no effort shall be spared to treat severe cases in order to further lower the fatality rate and raise the cure rate. All cases, once detected, must be handled immediately, with factual information released in a timely manner. Any cover-ups or under- reporting will never be allowed.

Beijing and other key regions must enforce rigorous containment measures in communities, transportation routes and ports, enhance preparedness in terms of facilities, materials and manpower, and prevent infections caused by gatherings of people and imported cases.

The meeting called for closer communication and coordination with the World Health Organisation and relevant countries to step up cooperation on testing, diagnostic and treatment techniques, and development of drugs and vaccines.

Bruce Aylward, team leader of the China-Who joint mission on COVID-19, commended China’s counterattack against the epidemic, saying that it can be replicated but requires speed, money, imagination and political courage, a U.S. newspaper reported.

The containment is still possible if countries act quickly “because we don’t have a global pandemic — we have outbreaks occurring globally,” Aylward was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Aylward, who visited China for two weeks in early February, dismissed suspicion that COVID-19 cases in China is not going down. “It peaked at 46,000 people asking for tests a day; when we left, it was 13,000. Hospitals had empty beds,” said Aylward.

“Back of the envelope, it’s hundreds of thousands of people in China that did not get COVID-19 because of this aggressive response,” said Aylward.

Aylward said China moved half of its medical care online, so “if you needed prescriptions like insulin or heart medications, they could prescribe and deliver it.”

Also, the virus testing is free and if it was COVID-19, when patients’ insurance ended, the government will pay a larger share of their medical bills for their ensuing treatment, said Aylward. He also praised China’s ability of mobilization, noting that about 40,000 people were dispatched to Hubei province and many of them are volunteers.

“They’re mobilised, like in a war, and it’s fear of the virus that was driving them. They really saw themselves as on the front lines of protecting the rest of China. And the world,” said Aylward.

COVID-19 is not a pandemic for now although there are very concerning signs, the chief of World Health Organisation (Who) said in Geneva on Thursday, expressing his deep concern about the spread of the coronavirus into an increasing number of countries with weaker health systems over the past few days.

“Although the situation could be worse than what we are now and it could be a pandemic level, there are countries within this situation which have shown that it (COVID-19) can be contained,” Who Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a daily briefing, underlying “we should not give up until the last attempt”.

As of Thursday morning, 95,265 cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally, including 3,281 deaths, according to Who.

Tedros insisted that pandemic can only be declared based on evidence, which is not there yet.

He praised those countries which have been fighting hard against the epidemic, noting positive signals and experience regarding the virus have already emerged.

Moreover, Tedros called for a comprehensive approach, stressing the political commitment and intervention should be triggered in all countries for COVID-19 containment.

Three Chinese medical experts from Tongji Hospital in Wuhan on Wednesday shared their experiences treating the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with their Italian peers who made inquiries on a video call.

Enrico Ammirati, a cardiologist in the department of anesthesia and ICU of Niguarda Hospital, raised questions concerning the criterion of wards, treatment schemes of cytokine storm and COVID-19, protection of medics.

The Milan-based Niguarda Hospital is the oldest one in the city and one of the largest comprehensive medical facilities in Italy. The hospital has vacated a building and has so far admitted more than 200 COVID-19 patients.

The Chinese medical expert told Ammirati about their solutions by refitting general wards — turning air conditioners off and adding doors to separate the ward into clean, semi-contaminated and contaminated areas. The treatment of severe and critical COVID-19 patients can refer to that of fulminant myocarditis, Chinese experts said, since cytokine storms were found in patients with both diseases in terms of pathophysiological mechanism.

China will take targeted measures to address difficulties faced by enterprises invested by Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) to help them resume businesses, a commerce official said Thursday.

China, Japan and ROK are complementary in trade and have a deeply integrated industrial chains as each other’s important trade partners, but the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic has cast a shadow on regional trade and rippled around the world, especially on trade of intermediate goods, Li Xingqian, director of the Department of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce, told an online press conference. Transnational companies have borne the brunt of the epidemic fallout, and international logistics and travel channels are also blocked, he added.

Researchers in China’s Shenzhen have observed the appearance of the novel coronavirus after inactivation using frozen electron microscopy and captured the intermediate state of the virus infecting host cells.

The Shenzhen National Clinical Medical Research Center for Infectious Diseases and Southern University of Science and Technology set up a joint research team to study the isolation, culture, identification and structure of the coronavirus since the outbreak of the COVID-19.

The research team isolated a virus strain on Jan. 27 and completed the genome sequencing and identification. They named the coronavirus strain “BetaCoV/Shenzhen/SZTH-003/2020” and shared it on the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.

Using frozen electron microscope analysis technology, the research team not only observed the inactivated appearance of the virus but also captured an important intermediate state in the host cell infected by the virus. The study provides an ultra-micro imaging basis for the identification and clinical research of the virus.

China has expanded and optimized the utilization of drugs and therapies in the treatment of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to block the conversion of mild cases to severe cases and save critically ill patients. Tocilizumab, with the common brand name Actemra, has been included in China’s latest version of diagnosis and treatment guidelines on COVID-19.

Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference Friday that the drug Tocilizumab has been found effective to block the inducement of the inflammatory storm.

In an initial clinical trial, Tocilizumab was used in 20 severe COVID-19 cases. And the body temperatures of all the patients dropped within one day. Nineteen of the patients were discharged from the hospital within two weeks, and one got better, according to Zhou. Currently, the drug is under clinical trials in 14 hospitals in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic.

The following is Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on March 4 and 5, 2020 on COVID-19:

Q: It was once speculated that the virus was leaked from a lab in China and such speculation was already countered by the Chinese side. Still, there are many versions about the origin of the virus and “patient zero”. Some media and netizens still talk about it in ways like “China virus”and “Wuhan virus”. There are also news stories saying that some US seasonal influenza patients actually came down with COVID-19. What is your response?

A: It is highly irresponsible for some media to dub it “China virus”. We firmly oppose that. I want to stress two points.

First, no conclusion has been reached yet on the origin of the virus, as relevant tracing work is still underway. The Who has said many times that what we are experiencing now is a global phenomenon with its source still undetermined, and we should focus on containing it and avoid stigmatising language toward certain places. The name COVID-19 was chosen by the Who for the purpose of making no connections between the virus and certain places or countries. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, respiratory specialist and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that the epidemic was first reported in China but was not necessarily originated in China.

Second, we should all say no to “information virus” and “political virus”. By calling it “China virus” and thus suggesting its origin without any supporting facts or evidence, some media clearly want China to take the blame and their ulterior motives are laid bare. The epidemic is a global challenge. The right move should be working together to fight it, which means no place for rumors and prejudice. We need science, reason and cooperation to drive out ignorance and bias.

Q: The confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise worldwide. Some countries are feeling increasingly strained in epidemic prevention and control. But in China, we see a climbing cure rate, and the numbers of newly confirmed and suspected cases have been kept low for several days on end. What has China been sharing with other affected countries, in terms of prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment?

A: China has been closely following the global footprint of COVID-19. We have been strengthening international cooperation in this area with the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind in mind and in an open, transparent and responsible attitude. That’s what we’ve been saying and we’ve been doing.

Yesterday afternoon, together with the National Health Commission, the Foreign Ministry had a video conference with COVID-19 experts from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Turkmenistan and the SCO Secretariat. The video conference was attended by officials from the NHC, the Foreign Ministry, the General Administration of Customs and China’s embassies in the relevant countries, experts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Peking University First Hospital, officials from foreign diplomatic and health departments, foreign diplomatic missions in China, foreign experts in the health field, and representatives from relevant international organizations.

The experts on the Chinese side gave a full account of the epidemic situation in China and our experience in epidemic control and treatment. All participants had an in-depth exchange of views on control measures, diagnosis, screening and laboratory tests, pledging further actions on sharing information and coordinating actions to safeguard regional and global health security.

Prior to yesterday’s video conference, China has already had such communication with the EU via two video conferences. You can look for more details of these meetings from the press release we’ve already issued.

Q: A Fox News host said during a TV program that the novel coronavirus originated in China and he demanded a formal apology for the outbreak. What is your comment?

A: What he said, which reveals his total arrogance, prejudice and ignorance towards China, is very preposterous and ridiculous. I have three points to make here.

First, to defeat this virus is everyone’s battle and every patient that came down with it, wherever he or she is, is a victim. What is the point in arguing that someone should apologise for it? We see people around the world joining hands to fight off this epidemic, and the Who has repeatedly said that stigmatization is more dangerous than the virus itself. Why are certain people and media still promoting such an absurd logic? What are they up to?

Second, there is simply no basis and no reason to push China for an apology. It is yet undetermined where the virus originated. Wherever its origin may be, China and all the other affected countries are victims faced with the challenge in containing its spread. The H1N1 flu that broke out in the US in 2009 spread to 214 countries and regions, killing at least 18,449 people that year alone. I don’t remember anyone asking the US to apologise.

Third, in its efforts to fight off the epidemic, China has conducted itself as a responsible country. China’s signature strength, efficiency and speed in this fight has been widely acclaimed. To protect the health and safety of people across the world, the Chinese people have made huge sacrifice and major contributions. To date, leaders of over 170 countries and heads of more than 40 regional and international organizations sent messages, called us and issued statements to express sympathy and support for China. They also commended China for its effective and extraordinary response and enormous sacrifice. Who Director-General Dr. Tedros noted that China’s forceful actions have limited the spread of the virus both domestically and beyond its borders, thus setting a new standard for the global efforts against the epidemic.

Q: The other day you talked about China’s assistance to Iran, including dispatching a group of volunteers made up of medical experts. Do you have any update on these experts’ work in Iran?

A: As I understand, the expert team sent by the Red Cross Society of China arrived in Iran on February 29. Since then, they have been working diligently, conducting exchanges and discussions with the Iranian health department and the Red Crescent Society on epidemic control experience. Iran is deeply grateful that China sent the expert team there. The team is also cooperating with Who experts. The Who spoke highly of such cooperation and said that they will remain in close communication with the Chinese team and work out a plan that incorporates China’s experience and fits Iran’s situation.

China and Iran are comprehensive strategic partners. We have never failed each other when mutual support and solidarity are needed in times of difficulty. Going forward, China will continue with its best help to Iran in accordance with their needs. We will step up cooperation and share experience with Iran and all other countries to make contributions to the global cause of public health.