Mumbai hears of Shanghai's COVID-19 tasks

Ke Jiayun
A local epidemiologist says Shanghai should strengthen its technology and capabilities in disease monitoring and early warnings, especially for the emerging infectious diseases.
Ke Jiayun

Shanghai should strengthen its disease-monitoring and early warning technologies and capabilities, especially in regard to novel or emerging infectious diseases, according to a local epidemiologist, to better tackle possible unknown infectious diseases in the future.

Zhang Zhijie, an associate professor at Fudan University’s department of epidemiology and health statistics, said that the research capacity of health institutions, especially new scientific and technological methods or tools such as big data analysis, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, should be enhanced to build a more modern, more powerful, more sensitive and more easily used early warning system for epidemics.

Zhang, who outlined the city's response to novel coronavirus in a live exchange with Mumbai at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies on Friday afternoon, also said that establishing a unified and efficient public health emergency management mechanism was vital for dealing with epidemics.

A multi-disciplinary expert group is needed to build such a mechanism, with medical and public health experts as the main body, supported by experts from fields such as public security, transport, public utilities, mental health and economic law, Zhang said.

"They can assist in timely and effective decision-making, provide professional and precise suggestions and opinions on epidemic situation research and judgment, prevention and control measures selection, among others," he said. "Scientific support is the most important."

Also required are a team of public health professionals and the improvement of on-site emergency response capabilities. Issues such as epidemiological investigation, on-site rapid detection and laboratory inspection, epidemic situation analysis and judgment all demand highly qualified professional teams.

Zhang thought Shanghai did well in epidemic control by providing "closed loop" management to those with a fever and other symptoms of coronavirus through port quarantine, community-based prevention and control, and clinical disease treatment without allowing them to contact others.

He also mentioned the close collaborations of public health workers and clinical doctors. "Shanghai has established several hundred fever clinics for confirmed cases, while for close contacts, public health workers have done a good job to do the so-called 'epidemiological investigations' to find all close contacts."

Local citizens had also made great contributions to the local campaign against coronavirus by good self-protection and following official suggestions, he said.

Yang Xubo, head of the local commerce commission’s foreign investment administration, said there had been three difficulties when trying to resume Shanghai's business — people, money and supplies. During the outbreak, the employees were either unable to return to Shanghai or kept in 14-day quarantine while companies suffered loss of income, along with the shortage of medical protective supplies.

He talked about the six measures taken by Shanghai to deal with these problems and restart business activities — a coordination mechanism to support the resumption and distribution of protective supplies to local companies; on-site visits to enterprises to learn about their needs; round-table meetings to different government departments to work together; related preferential policies; a shopping festival to facilitate consumption and an emergency mechanism.

“Mumbai and Shanghai, two important cities in India and China respectively, share a lot in common in terms of financial status and geographical advantage. But they also differ in many ways, such as their different takes on fight against the pandemic and reopening,” said Chen Dongxiao, president of the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies. 

Chen said both cities have gained rich experience from the anti-pandemic battle. Therefore, it's important for them to compare notes and share expertise and knowledge with each other to facilitate mutual understanding.

The live exchange, discussing post-COVID-19 urban planning and governance in Mumbai in India and Shanghai, was organized by the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office, the Shanghai Institute for International Studies and Indian think tank Gateway House. Mumbai and Shanghai became sister cities in 2014.

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