Expert sees biggest coronavirus risk coming from overseas

Ke Jiayun
Shanghai residents can gradually resume their normal lifestyles as local infections drop to zero, although one local expert still warns of foreign carriers.
Ke Jiayun

An infectious disease expert has warned that the city's biggest coronavirus risk is now from overseas carriers and believes residents can gradually resume their normal lifestyles because Shanghai has had no confirmed local cases for more than 20 days.

Zhang Wenhong, an infectious disease expert at Huashan Hospital as well as the head of Shanghai's medical team fighting the coronavirus, said that China has achieved success in its first stage of epidemic control.

But epidemic situation in China will still be affected by worldwide prevention and control work. 

"Epidemic prevention requires the participation of every country in the world," said Zhang, "and none of them can be absolutely safe in this global crisis. Controlling the epidemic doesn't depend on which country does best, but which one does worst."

As for the question of whether the epidemic will resurface in China under the influence of its global spread, Zhang said this depends on three factors. One is whether coronavirus disease will recur among recovered patients or turn into a chronic disease. The second is whether some patients are infected but have no symptoms. The third risk comes from patients from overseas.

"For the first factor, our observations show that so far no recovered patients have recurrence of symptoms, and there are no cases of patients who left hospital spreading the disease again," Zhang said.

He explained that the second factor is unlikely to occur because the virus incubation period is two weeks and patients will show symptoms during this period. Since there are some special cases with longer incubation, observations can be extended to three or four weeks.

"Currently, most areas of the country have had no new local cases for more than two weeks and Shanghai has three weeks with zero local cases. The city has 117 fever clinics and newly added special consulting rooms for patients with fever at 182 community healthcare centers. So if the virus spreads among family members or a group of people, it will undoubtedly be detected."

But he pointed out that the third factor is the biggest risk for Shanghai and there should be three "layers of defense" to detect outsiders who carry the coronavirus: customs, communities and medical institutions.

Chinese customs are now more active in their quarantine work, Zhang said. Local residential communities are also doing well managing those under homebound isolation. The 117 fever clinics and 182 community healthcare centers also enable residents to see doctors with minimal delay.

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