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Risks of reverse current virus spread highlight importance of coordination: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-05 19:11
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Scientists check samples awaiting tests in the "Huo-Yan laboratory" of genomics sequencing company BGI in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

There has been a continuous decline in the number of new novel coronavirus infections each day in China, including in Hubei province, the area most affected by the outbreak, and more and more provincial-level regions have not seen new cases for days.

But the public's anxiety has still not eased as the number of people infected by the virus has been increasing exponentially in some countries and people fear that new arrivals may bring the virus with them. The combined daily increase outside China is already about seven times that inside it — 1,054 to 144 on Wednesday.

According to China's customs administration, among the people arriving to enter the country since the start of the outbreak, 75 were found to be infected with the novel coronavirus, 779 were suspected of being infected, and 6,728 showed symptoms of infection as of Tuesday, most of which have been detected recently — 227 arrivals showing symptoms and 63 suspected cases were reported on that day alone.

That explains why President Xi Jinping, who is directing the country's efforts to curb the epidemic, highlighted on Wednesday the risks accompanying the rebooting of the economy, which was powered down with an extended Spring Festival holiday to restrict transmission of the virus. He called for no relaxation in the epidemic response preparedness as people move around the country and start to gather again.

Meanwhile, his urging that more attention be paid to epidemic prevention and control work in Beijing and other key regions, should prompt the country to not only maintain the pressure of its resistance against the spread of the virus from within, but also strengthen its inspection, quarantine and screening efforts at customs to avoid a "reverse current" from outside that would render all the country's internal counter-epidemic efforts in vain.

Thus, it is strongly suggested that the country should consider expanding its 14-day quarantine requirements from those having recent traveling experience in the four worst hit countries — the Republic of Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy — to all visitors coming from outside, including Chinese nationals.

That some countries, such as the United States, have stopped disclosing the number of citizens that have tested positive for the novel coronavirus from Monday, which has left countries in the dark about their situations, makes this essential.

As such, although the country remains open to those from outside, a no-one-should-be-omitted 14-day quarantine should be imposed on all those wanting to enter the country. While this will drive up the administrative costs given the still sizable population flow into the country each day, it should be adopted immediately to plug the obvious loopholes to help the country to defend itself against the virus and thwart the cross-border spread of the virus.

And although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to contain the epidemic, it is high time countries strengthened cooperation and coordination, and expanded surveillance to find, isolate and care for every case and to trace every contact. Defeating the virus requires countries take an all-of-government and all-of-society approach to keep the virus at bay.

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