BEIJING, Dec. 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — After three years’ hard effort to keep the COVID-19 at bay, China has optimized its virus responses recently. The Global Times has talked with front line medical workers, grass-roots community workers and others about their experience in the three-year battle. These people believe that the three years’ effort that has traded time until the variants became less lethal and has helped prevent most people from being exposed to dangerous variants, was worth the wait.
During China’s three-year fight against COVID-19, everyone from this country contributed their fair share to build an exquisitely designed giant machine. Powered by top-down mobilization, coalesced into effort of people from all walks of life, be it medical workers or grass-roots community workers, the machine has worked effectively for three years to shield the country’s populace against an onslaught of the virus.
Now that China has optimized its COVID-19 responses and the hope of returning to pre-epidemic normalcy is in sight, Chinese people believed the three years’ fighting was not in vain, as they have been shielded until COVID-19 variants became far less dangerous, and they are optimistic of the future and that they are sure the final shock from COVID-19 will be weathered smoothly and orderly.
After China announced to optimize its COVID-19 responses, cases began to surge, especially in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. At this crucial moment, frontline medical employees are the first to bear the burnt, as hospitals nationwide have begun to increase staff and are ramping up resources to cope with the ballooning caseload.
Yin Yong, director of respiratory department from Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, who also led the medical team in the fight against COVID-19 in friendly makeshift hospitals for children this spring, is one of them.
Yin told the Global Times recently that to steel for the coming wave, his hospital has reshuffled resources, and set up fever clinics, quarantine outpatient services for positive cases; and different areas for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.
All the equipment that are needed, including ventilators and monitors, are already in place; doctors with abundant experience in dealing with COVID-19 patients are also ready, said Yin, noting that their focus is on the vulnerable groups. The only problem, according to Yin, is the shortage of medicines.
Governments, pharmaceuticals and logistics companies are running against the clock to guarantee amply supply of medicines since December 14.
In retrospect, Yin said the current palpable urgency resembles that of three years ago, when COVID-19 first hit Chinese city of Wuhan. The Shanghai doctor said the initial victory against the outbreak in Wuhan had paved the way on how to fight future outbreaks, including the arduous one in Shanghai this spring.
When striving to curb the fast spreading of Omicron in Shanghai, Yin and his colleagues were also faced with emergency tasks which needed to be done in only 24 to 48 hours, including stockpiling materials and personnel arrangements.
No one chickened out, said Yin, describing it as a chance for everyone to grow, and a proud moment that their effort finally traded over victory against Omicron in Shanghai in a few months.
Medical workers in China, after three years’ toil over treatment and prevention of COVID-19, once again stood at the frontal line of the battle against coronavirus and in a bind as many were infected with Omicron. Yin said they are trying to shun away from being infected. "Not because we are afraid of getting the virus, but because we don’t have time to [get infected]. There’s simply too much to do."
Yin is optimistic that the current quandaries will be overcome. He said he saw a message on China’s messaging app WeChat a few days ago. The message said the country has protected its people for three years, during which the original deadly strain had degraded into less harmful Omicron; and that the government has done much to protect most people from suffering severe diseases, "I totally agree with this view," said Yin.
Recently, a woman in Wuhan posted her experience of being infected back in 2020 and her recent battle with Omicron in December. Three years ago, her high fever lasted seven days and it took her two whole months to fully recover. In comparison, she recovered quickly the second time after only seven days of resting at home, and symptoms disappeared fast. Her post has been viewed more than 4.4 million times as of press time.
China’s three-year battle with COVID-19 can be seen as an exquisitely designed machinery, where not only medical workers, but every part of the whole society are essential for the machine to clank away. Grass-roots community workers, who count cases, enforce quarantine and ensure people’s lives during lockdowns, are one plank that keep the machine moving.
One neighborhood community office, consisting of a dozen workers, usually need to manage up to hundreds of households. It is wrong to think that they can finally catch a breath after the government allowed home quarantine and dismantled mass lockdowns earlier this month.
Wang Xia [pseudonym], a community worker at Beijing’s Wangjing area, told the Global Times on December 15 that they are still buzzing around to provide daily necessities to those under home quarantine, and send elderly people to hospitals.
"For at least two years I dare not mute my phone, because there were calls to me day and night, some called to report their journeys back to Beijing [from some COVID-19 hot spots], or asked us for help during lockdowns, or consult current virus prevention policies," said Wang.
Yet she believes her efforts were worthwhile. "Virulence of the virus only deceased to so low until now. And the country waited for this moment to change policies… For three years, we did our utmost to prevent the majority of people from being infected."
Optimizing at right time
Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times Omicron transmits faster, but it has relatively low pathogenicity. If we still used the old way to cope with the Omicron wave, the price will be unbearable," Wang said.
"We have waited for three years to reopen with abundant backup plans to cope with the ‘exit wave,’ Wang said.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a conference on Saturday that China has waited long enough for the public to get vaccinated. After three years, the rate of severe cases in China has been diminishing gradually, from 16.47 percent in 2020 to the current 0.18 percent.
China’s COVID-19 response has undergone gradual tweaks, the decisions are scientific, correct and in accordance with China’s situation, said Wu. He also believes the three years we had earned, during which virulence of the virus weakened and more people got inoculated, has created chance for optimizing virus prevention, and helped the country to avoid large numbers of deaths.