World Newsletter

CHINA NEWS
19 MARCH 2020

XI CALLS FOR COOPERATION IN VIRUS FIGHT

China will strengthen international cooperation on novel coronavirus epidemic control and continue to provide assistance within its ability to countries affected by the epidemic, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said on Wednesday.

Xi made the remark when presiding over the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in which members analyzed the epidemic situation at home and abroad and its challenge to economic development.

Given that the epidemic is spreading across the world, Xi said that China should work closely with the World Health Organization, intensify analysis and prediction on global epidemic development, improve measures for dealing with the risk of imported infections and strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries.

Globally, the pandemic had caused 194,029 cases of infection as of Wednesday, according to the WHO.

Xi said the epidemic situation is improving at home, but China is still faced with new situations, especially the global spread of the virus as well as its negative impact on the world economy.

Prevention and control work should be firmly implemented to avoid the reversal of China's hard-won improving epidemic situation, Xi said.

Meeting participants stressed the need to improve the mechanisms of data sharing, information disclosure and inspection of people entering China to prevent imported infections, according to a statement released after the meeting.

The meeting called for greater efforts to improve coordinating mechanisms of epidemic control strategies with other countries, enhance sharing of experience in prevention and treatment and advancing joint scientific research.

Participants agreed that the epidemic control work in priority regions, especially Hubei province and Wuhan, should remain consistent and cautious.

The meeting said patients in critical condition will be concentrated in high-level hospitals for better medical treatment, and work and production in Wuhan will be gradually resumed.

While control measures in other parts of Hubei will be canceled in an orderly manner, the meeting instructed local authorities to cooperate in sending stranded people out of Hubei and returning those stranded in other places through point-to-point or one-stop transfers.

With China's economy facing increasing downward pressure, Party committees and governments at all levels are instructed to actively promote work and production resumption in an orderly way to minimize the epidemic's impact, according to the meeting.

 

CAPITAL NOW SORTS ARRIVING INTL PASSENGERS

About 6,000 inbound travelers were received on Wednesday at the International Exhibition Center where they, as required, filled out health forms, registered identity information and waited for chartered transportation to their home areas.

Forty-seven transfer zones for provinces across the country and districts in the capital had been set up within the special hub in Beijing's Shunyi district near Beijing Capital International Airport to temporarily hold passengers arriving at the capital airport from overseas. It is aimed at containing the growing risks of imported infections of COVID-19.

By the end of Monday, 14,595 travelers from 109 international flights arriving at the special D Zone of Terminal 3 at the airport had been transferred to the hub since it began operating on March 10, officials said. Among Beijing's 16 districts, Chaoyang and Haidian had the lion's share of passengers living in the capital.

Zhang Dongchuan, a senior official in the Haidian district government, said they picked up about 280 to 300 inbound passengers daily from the transfer hub to the designated quarantine hotels. "And the numbers have been increasing," he said.

To support the Shunyi hub's ope-ration, the district government assigned some 55 civil servants to work in four shifts every day to help arrange travelers' registration and quarantine procedures, Zhang said.

Preventive measures are carefully practiced to ensure staff workers' health, and regular sterilization of the facility has been conducted every day. A designated hotel in Haidian was also assigned to accommodate workers from the hub.

Passengers transferred to the hub were all determined to be free of virus-related symptoms. Those displaying symptoms like a fever would be sent to designated hospitals in the city, like Xiaotangshan Hospital in northern Beijing, for further medical observation or treatment.

For passengers with final destinations outside Beijing, after their registration at the provincial transfer zone, they would be accompanied by special staff from the province to the train station or the airport to begin the journey home.

 

HIGH-SPEED MASK PRODUCTION LINE PUT INTO OPERATION

The first high-speed production line of masks in China has been put into operation in Beijing, with 400 to 600 pieces produced per minute and a daily output of more than 500,000 pieces, according to Beijing Daily, who cited the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform.

In order to meet the increasing medical supply demand brought by virus outbreak, Beijing Union Medical Systems Co Ltd, which focuses on biological diagnostic reagents research and development, added the mask production line on March 9.

As of today, the line has been in trial production for six days, with line speed hitting 500 masks per minute. The company has already delivered 3 million masks to the market, and production efficiency will increase in the future.

Beijing Daily noted Beijing Union Medical Systems Co Ltd had applied China's first high-speed mask production machine, which can achieve the highest speed of 800 pieces per minute, eight times faster than traditional machines.

In order to start formal production as soon as possible, the company promptly renovated the original workshop of more than 1,200 square meters in the first and third floors and met standards for producing civilian masks and disposable medical masks. Raw material for masks, like medical meltblown non-woven fabric, is in 24-hour supply from Sinopec Group.

"Different government departments cooperate fully with each other and actively serve the enterprise," an official from the commission said. "Mask production capability has seen a significant increase in the last month."

The official also noted several batches of production equipment had arrived in Beijing, and some had already been put into production. Beijing mechanical and electrical enterprises have set up special teams for 24-hour machine repair and maintenance.

 

PROTECTING FOOD SECURITY FOR THE VULNERABLE

The Interim Economic Outlook of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development two weeks ago confirmed that the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on China's and the rest of the world's economies is going to be extremely severe. Restrictions on movement of people, goods and services, and containment measures such as factory closures have sharply reduced manufacturing and domestic demand in China. As a result, the OECD has lowered China's GDP growth projection for this year, from 5.7 percent in November 2019 to 4.9 percent earlier this month.

Similarly, because of China's weight on the global economy and the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus globally, the OECD has projected global GDP growth to drop from an already weak 2.9 percent in 2019 to 2.4 percent in 2020.

The Interim Economic Outlook of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development two weeks ago confirmed that the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on China's and the rest of the world's economies is going to be extremely severe. Restrictions on movement of people, goods and services, and containment measures such as factory closures have sharply reduced manufacturing and domestic demand in China. As a result, the OECD has lowered China's GDP growth projection for this year, from 5.7 percent in November 2019 to 4.9 percent earlier this month.

Similarly, because of China's weight on the global economy and the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus globally, the OECD has projected global GDP growth to drop from an already weak 2.9 percent in 2019 to 2.4 percent in 2020.

While the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Chinese and world economies is being carefully monitored and assessed, little is known about the impact of the outbreak on "non-economic" sectors such as "development".

As a representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, an organization mandated to rural development, poverty reduction and food security, let me share some personal reflections on the possible impact of the outbreak on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly on SDG 2: food security, both in China and globally.

Since very limited data are currently available, making such an assessment extremely difficult, my considerations are thus mainly based on my personal observations in China.

The restrictions on people's movement and the closure of factories have had an impact on the circulation, and thus availability, of food and agricultural products, and disrupted several value-chains with a potential impact on prices. Counter-intuitively, however, despite the limited circulation of food, food supply has overall remained stable, and with limited exceptions, food prices in China have remained overall stable as well. This can be probably attributed to the large food stocks at the time of the outbreak, when movement restrictions began to be implemented.

However, the longer the restrictive measures continue, the more stress would be put on the whole system. If the restrictions on people's movement are not lifted soon, food stocks are likely to reduce, which could lead to price hikes.

 

IT TO IMPROVE SAFETY IN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY

Following a deadly blast one year ago, China has unveiled an ambitious plan to use information technology to enhance management of its chemical industry,the world's largest,vowing to build multiple systems to ensure close monitoring of hazards.

The initiative will help address the lack of people with adequate expertise in the industry and the lack of supervision over it, both factors in some major accidents in recent years, experts said.

However, they also predicted challenges in implementing the plan in medium-sized and small companies, which make up the bulk of the industry.

China will ramp up the construction of an intelligent system able to monitor major risks in chemical industry parks and sound alarms in a timely manner, a guideline published by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council said.

The document, unveiled late last month, also demands the speedy establishment of a remote online monitoring system connecting emergency management authorities with companies and chemical industry parks.

The establishment of a nationwide information management system to trace the entire life cycle of hazardous chemicals will also be explored.

Taking lessons from major accidents in recent years, especially the blast that claimed 78 lives at a chemical plant in Xiangshui county, Jiangsu province, on March 21 last year, the guideline is expected to help address many problems in the industry at their source, the Ministry of Emergency Management said in a statement.

"Generally, the safety conditions and management capabilities in the industry are inadequate, presenting a lot of major safety hazards," it said.

Only 30 percent of the people in charge of China's hazardous chemical companies have any educational qualifications in chemical engineering, the ministry said. Among safety management executives, the ratio is less than 50 percent.

Moreover, 80 percent of the country's roughly 210,000 hazardous chemical producers are small or medium-sized enterprises with inadequate safety control capabilities that lack the financial resources to upgrade production technologies.

Poor management was a major factor in the Xiangshui blast. Lacking adequate knowledge about nitration waste, the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Company illegally stored waste that self-ignited and caused the explosion, a State Council investigation found.

Chen Kaimin, from Shanghai University of Engineering Science, welcomed the information technology initiative, saying such an approach, as used in gas cylinder management, could help rule out some safety hazards.

Gas cylinders, frequently used in laboratories, chemical plants and hospitals, usually contain flammable gas that could cause an explosion. For about two years, the university has used information management to monitor cylinders, as required by the authorities, said Chen, an associate professor with the university's School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

The system makes it compulsory for the sellers of gas cylinders to attach electronic tags to the vessels, trace them and call users to check on their condition. If some of his colleagues had not been called, they might have forgotten cylinders that had been left idle for an extended period of time, posing a potential safety hazard, he said.

Chen said China should also learn from some developed countries and promote concentrated management of cylinders, with major consumers establishing special locations to accommodate the vessels and then connecting them to labs or workshops with pipelines.

Such concentrated management has been applied in the construction of many chemical plants in recent years, but Chen said progress could be slow, as small or medium-sized enterprises were "usually cost sensitive".

The guideline also sets educational thresholds for chemical industry employees and supervisory officers.

 

SHENZHEN GENE BANK JOINS VIRUS DATA PROGRAM

China National GeneBank in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, announced on Monday its strategic partnership with the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, a key player in global health security.

"The two sides will cooperate in managing, sharing and analyzing genetic data of viruses related to respiratory infectious diseases in a bid to promote the global sharing of virus data," said Wang Ren, director-general of the CNGB, a public nonprofit institution.

The CNGB, which began operating in 2016, is the first integrated gene bank in the country. It has played an important role in fighting the novel coronavirus since the epidemic began in China.

As of Wednesday, the CNGB has collected 178 sets of genome sequence data related to the virus, which is crucial to helping Chinese researchers identify, retrieve and analyze the virus quickly.

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

Currently, research teams around the world are working together to actively carry out research on the virus, including its natural history, epidemiology, vaccines, diagnostic reagents and therapeutic tools.

"It is a wonderful cooperation to combat the novel coronavirus as it is a common enemy for everyone on this planet," said Chen Jun, a senior doctor in charge of treatment of the infection at the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen.

Chen's two papers based on the front-line fight against the contagion were recently accepted by the WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation respectively.

The strategic cooperation is expected to help Chinese researchers obtain direct access to virus data resources and richer analysis tools, while the genome sequence data of Chinese infections will also provide valuable research material for other countries, according to the CNGB.

"The global sharing of primary virus information is helpful for epidemic prevention and control," Chen said. "It will also improve treatment methods and speed up vaccine development. Researchers can detect and grasp changes in the virus around the world at any time. This is necessary to fight the epidemic."

The Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, established in 2008, is the largest platform for international sharing of all influenza virus and novel coronavirus data. Its data originate from about 14,000 researchers at 1,500 institutes worldwide.

It has collected 855 sets of genome sequence data of the novel coronavirus.

On Jan 11, China shared the first whole genome sequence data of the virus with the initiative, which enables scientists worldwide to know more about the virus' origin and develop diagnostics.

"Through the globally shared data, we expect to achieve more scientific research results and apply them to Chinese epidemic prevention and control," Wang said.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

The more frugal I am forced to be the more resourceful I become. - Jeffrey Fry

 

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