Living with and defeating Covid19 – Lessons we can learn from round the world

Living with and defeating Covid19 – Lessons we can learn from round the world

The domestic transmission of Covid-19 in the region of Hubei has abated in the last 34 days, while transmission in the rest of China has been steadily decreasing. The COVID-19 pandemic originated in China with a cluster of mysterious, suspected pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, with the first notifications made on the 27th of December 2019. Covid-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a brand new strain of the Coronavirus family, and China was its first major victim. Therefore, China’s war against the virus was inevitably going to be full of challenges, despite being able to identify the pathogen in record time. Control of the outbreak was never going to be an easy task, but through strenuous efforts and tremendous sacrifices, as well as the sympathy and support from the international community, the goal is being achieved in China. The question is, what can we learn from their fight?

In the wake of the outbreak, China faced an either-or situation: Economic development or people’s lives. Thus began an unprecedented anti-epidemic campaign, rapidly launched in China with people from all walks of life joining in the great struggle. But what exactly was China’s anti-pandemic strategy?

Wuhan quarantine

The Chinese government was quick to quarantine Wuhan and mobilize all possible resources for support. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicenter of Covid-19 pandemic in China, was put under lockdown to stem the spread of the disease across the mainland and beyond. Wuhan residents were not allowed to go out of the city, while basic essentials and medical supplies kept flowing inside. Hubei province’s treatment capacity was significantly boosted by the 346 medical teams and 42,000 medical staff from other provinces who volunteered to travel there between 24th January to 8th March. Two Covid-19 specialized hospitals equipped with 2000 beds were built in the city within a record 10 days, while 16 makeshift hospitals (with 30,000 beds) were established to treat people with mild symptoms. Additionally, to identify all those infected, medical staff in Wuhan even screened all 14 million residents

Country-wide partial quarantine

The lockdown measures from Wuhan were first expanded to the Hubei province and then partially to the rest of the country. During the peak time, transport lines linking provinces, cities, or even villages were under control, and non-essential public facilities like gardens, museums, cinemas and restaurants were closed. People were advised to avoid unnecessary travel, social activities and gatherings. Wearing a face mask and measuring the average body temperature were compulsory for access to public areas, including supermarkets and outdoor vegetable markets. People who had recently travelled to Wuhan were classified into high-risk groups and put under home quarantine for two weeks. Those who showed Covid-19 symptoms were taken to designated hospitals by negative-pressure ambulances for further examination and treatment.

Transparency, solidarity and logistics

China was able to employ the people’s solidarity with government efforts to fight the virus through information transparency, co-operation with anti-epidemic measures, and ensuring the availability of essential items. 

 People could continue to buy whatever they wanted online, with both essential economic sectors and the logistics system operating normally. With their basic needs being met, the Wuhan people would rather stay at home than go outside and risk being infected.

Boosting medical supplies

The fight against Covid-19 was called the ‘People’s War’ in China: healthcare staff fighting on the frontline; officials and volunteers providing logistics support; and the common people protecting each other from being infected. Everyone was a fighter and every fighter needed armour and weapons. In this war, the armour and weapons were personal protective equipment, disinfectants and drugs. But despite being a healthcare manufacturing powerhouse, China was unable to meet the massive demand for medical supplies immediately.

To overcome the challenge, the Chinese government took two approaches simultaneously. First, producers were encouraged to expand capacity or switch to manufacturing items that were in dire need. To ease the concerns of face mask producers, the government even promised to purchase all unsold masks after the pandemic ends. Second, the government curbed any arbitrary price hike through harsh regulations, and even set up hotlines to record consumer complaints. Chinese producers were soon able to meet domestic demand and supply to other countries.

Moving forward

China’s anti-epidemic strategy has proved successful. The rate of infection peaked early on and soon began to decline. By 23 March, the domestic transmission of the virus had been blocked, according to the statement released after a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. China has begun an orderly resumption of work and production, while taking steps to prevent a domestic rebound in infections or imported cases. As of 28 March, 98.6% major industrial enterprises in China have resumed production. Even in Hubei, 95% major industrial enterprises have returned to normal, and about 70% workers have returned to work. Since 8 April, even Wuhan, the last area under lockdown, has come back to normal.

China has won the major campaign in the war against Covid-19. However the war rages on I the rest of the world. The Covid-19 pandemic recognizes no border, ethnicity or religion, rendering all humankind a community with a shared future. If all countries band together in the fight against Covid-19, the pandemic can be soon controlled and the world will walk into a better future.

Conclusion

The steps Sri Lankans have taken in order to prevent Covid-19

The Sri Lankan health system comprises of western allopathic and other traditional systems. The western system caters to the needs of the majority. Services are provided through both the public and the private sector. Sri Lanka is considered a model for the world, as most health indicators have improved tremendously despite the low resource setting. These achievements are linked with a strong well-placed Public Health services of which the main services are promotion and prevention of illnesses achieved through strong grass-root-level workers and well-networked healthcare institutions in the island.

Sri Lanka is an island and a regional hub for commerce, trade, and travel. Hence, the country is often categorized under moderate risk for pandemics. The Epidemiology Unit in Sri Lanka is the responsible agency for communicable-disease surveillance, control, and prevention with a network covering the whole island. Sri Lanka has faced a few major pandemics and outbreaks including the 2003 Avia influenza outbreak. Medical professionals gained invaluable lessons and practical experience by responding to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

Many stakeholders work together toward emergency preparedness and response, including Medical Research Institute (MRI), Health Promotion Bureau, and the Department of Animal Production and Health. Case management infectious disease hospital (IDH), a high service level treatment facility is designated as the focal point for Infectious Diseases at national level. Fourteen hospitals around the country have been identified as treatment centers for suspected persons with COVID-19 (these include NHSL, LRH, NIID, TH Ragama, DGH Gampaha, DGH Negombo, National Hospital Kandy, TH Karapitiya, TH Anuradhapura, TH Jaffna, TH Kurunegala, PGH Rathnapura, TH Batticoloa, PGH Badulla). Medical Research Institute, Colombo conducts the “polymerase chain reaction” (PCR) test to identify the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Additionally, vigilant surveillance and response for rapid containment is carried out at all ports including the Airport. Thermal scanners are in place and on arrival “Health Declaration Forms” need to be filled and submitted. Health desks operating 24 x 7 are also in place. Inbound travel to Sri Lankan has been temporarily suspended, even for our own citizens as a measure to control influx of carriers. Vigilant contact tracing of COVID positive patients with subsequent quarantining and testing measures are being carried out. As a country with a healthcare service that has historically sustained people’s health, Sri Lanka has preparedness and response plans in place. They are the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness plan, the National Pandemic Vaccine Deployment plan, and ongoing surveillance.

As of now, however, our cases are increasing in number. The country as a whole is still in lockdown with plans to ease some lockdown measures in view of a soft start to the economy as necessary. Viewing this as a necessary evil at the moment, we need more than ever to follow the same measures that helped China, mainly the co-operation of the general public with the safety and health measures set out by the government and Health Ministry. This includes strictly adhering to social distancing, travelling only as necessary for essentials, and the oft repeated pleas for hand hygiene, face masks, and divulging any suspected contact history to authorities when necessary. It includes understanding that for now, this is our nee normal and that the release of the lockdown does not mean the pandemic is even close to over. This is not a fight that can be won only by our frontline workers. It needs every single Sri Lankan citizen to work together, and to keep fighting the good fight.


By MyDoctor

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