Official: China is in a critical coronavirus control period
Updated 21:12, 26-Jan-2020
By Guo Meiping

China is in a critical juncture in the prevention and control of the new coronavirus outbreak, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, said at a press conference on Sunday.

Calling the situation complicated, officials at the press conference said if the current measures can be implemented effectively, experts think the spread of virus can be curbed.

China has mobilized seven groups of 900 medical staff to aid Hubei Province and will send 12 more teams with 1,600 medical personnel in two days to Wuhan City, the center of the novel coronavirus outbreak, as part of the latest efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, according to officials.

'Very different from SARS'

The incubation period of the new coronavirus is about 10 days, with the shortest being one day and the longest 14 days, Ma said at the press conference, adding that the virus is infectious during the incubation period, which is very different from SARS. He believes that the outbreak will continue for some time.

"Our understanding of the new virus is still limited, the source of infection has not yet been identified and the risk of mutation is unclear," Ma said, adding that there will be changes in the virus over time, and the severity of the virus in different age groups is also changing. 

"However, with the strengthening of prevention and control, the epidemic will decline."

'No evidence of virus mutation has been found'

Li Bin, vice minister of National Health Commission, said at the press conference that no evidence of virus mutation has been found.

"We have been paying close attention to the mutation of the virus," said Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Because of the development of third-generation sequencing technology, we can see all kinds of changes of the virus very quickly," Gao said, adding that coronavirus is different from other viruses such as avian influenza virus.

"Since the discovery of the novel coronavirus, no significant change has been observed in either the isolated virus of the environment, the previously isolated virus in human body, or the recently isolated virus," the expert explained. 

Gao told the press that they haven't detected mutation of the virus because the difference between the viruses detected was very small, less than 1 percent.

"These differences are still being identified and need to be closely monitored," he said. 

'There will be a vaccine'

Gao said they felt confident in their efforts to come up with a vaccine. 

"Based on our experience of fighting SARS, I'm certain that the development of vaccine will succeed," the expert told the press after the press conference.

"The technology is different now… 20 or 30 years ago, we couldn't even imagine that we can detect and separate a new virus that fast," said Gao, who led the successful separation of the novel coronavirus.

In the case that there is a vaccine, it will still take time before it can be used, warned Gao. "After a vaccine is developed, it also takes time for it to be used in clinic," Gao said.

Spare no efforts to treat patients

Ma said that the diagnosis and treatment plan has been revised, and the list of designated hospitals and fever clinics at or above the county level has been made available to the public. 

"We should strengthen medical treatment, strictly follow the principle of concentrating patients, experts, resources and treatment, and pay attention to the integration of traditional Chinese and Western medicine," he said.

"We will make sure that no one is affected by cost," Ma told the press, emphasizing the importance of implementing the subsidy policy for patient assistance.

Strengthen international cooperation


Health officials said at the press conference that China will continue to share the latest information, including the complete genome sequence of partial strains, with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help evaluate the public health risk.

They also said they are open to experts from the WHO, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan visiting Wuhan to help with research.

"We are maintaining close communication with health commissions and embassies in China... including Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the U.S.," said Ma, in response to a question from CGTN.

The National Health Commission announced it would release data on a daily basis and work to make the public aware of the information in a timely manner. 

Experts believe the week-long Spring Festival holiday is the best period for large-scale isolation and disinfection to work. It's also a critical time to contain the spread of the disease in areas outside Wuhan.

Click here to watch the rebroadcast of the press conference.

(CGTN's Liu Hui also contributed to this story.)