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Digital tech essential to curbing pandemic, experts say

By Wang Junwei | | Updated: 2020-11-23 17:26
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An online health consultancy platform resumes operations in March in the Haidian district of Beijing. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

The importance of digital technologies has never been clearer than during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, top industry experts and entrepreneurs said at the World Internet Conference - Internet Development Forum which kicked off on Monday in Wuzhen, East China's Zhejiang province.

Information and communication technologies have provided powerful support for epidemic prevention and control and have shown great strength in case studies, decision-making, information sharing and epidemiological analysis, said Zhong Nanshan, China's leading respiratory disease expert, via video link at a main forum during the conference.

"We should stick to the driving force of information and science and technology innovation. Facing the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, those who work on network information across the country worked day and night to make breakthroughs in their strong support for epidemic prevention and control, including contact tracing and screening, logistics and big data application," Zhong said.

"We should make further use of information technology to improve the early warning and response mechanisms, and enhance the ability of prevention, control and treatment to safeguard people's health and safety."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people have seen their lifestyles and working methods go digital increasingly, Alibaba Chairman and CEO Zhang Yong said. Thanks to the widespread use of digital technologies, targeted disease prevention and control measures can be carried out via technological means like personal health codes. Social retail businesses can move from offline to online instead of shuttering completely, and more people have grown used to telecommuting and online education, Zhang added.

The in-depth application of 5G technology has become extremely useful in China's anti-epidemic drive. At Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, 5G technology was used for telemedicine. Experts from hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou were connected via 5G to discuss CT images of critical patients and determine treatment plans, said Li Zixue, president of  telecommunications company ZTE Corporation.

International cooperation, like vaccine research and development, 5G medical service and data sharing were also urged during the forum to fight against the disease. "I'm not saying the whole country but also the whole world, because viruses know no national boundaries and epidemics spread regardless of race. In the face of a common crisis for all mankind, no country can stay safe alone," Zhong said.

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