"Seek truth from facts," top Chinese biologist Rao Yi writes after bout of COVID
"We can only establish credibility and prevent a public backlash for underestimating the danger by being pragmatic and communicating honestly."
Renowned Chinese life scientist Rao Yi, who contracted Covid-19 this week, has called for China to "seek truth from facts" in dealing with COVID. Rao is a distinguished neurobiologist who studied and worked in the United States for over twenty years. After returning to China in 2007, he renounced his American citizenship and is now the president of Capital Medical University in Beijing.
Rao wrote an article titled “Faced with the epidemic, we should be pragmatic and work together to tide over this difficult period.” 疫情面前：实事求是、同心协力、共度难关 on Thursday as China eased its strict pandemic restrictions and experienced a surge in infections.
Rao discussed his experiences with COVID and his thoughts on China's approach to the virus in his article one day after China announced ten new epidemic prevention and control measures. On Friday, Rao's article was published by a number of media outlets, including The Paper and Guancha.cn, where it was an instant hit.
On the same day, China issued a working plan on health services for COVID-19 key groups to optimize tiered medical services for various groups of people. The National Health Commission (NHC) vowed to optimize medical resources and strengthen severe-illness treatment capacity, including upgrading makeshift hospitals.
Notably, according to the NHC, China now has 138,000 critical care beds, which equates to approximately 10 beds per 100,000 people. The number doubles from 2019 levels, which are estimated between 4.5 and 5 beds per 100,000 individuals.
Today, GRR provides you with a translation of Rao's article, which your Ginger River believes provides a fair assessment of China's change in its COVID response and offers pertinent suggestions to the nation as it deals with a new situation and new challenges in epidemic prevention and control. Rao's proposals and the ongoing efforts to optimize the COVID response will be essential for China to return to "pre-COVID normal."
Faced with the epidemic, we should be pragmatic and work together to tide over this difficult period
How can the current COVID situation in China be explained? We should refer to the surgeon's attitude toward the patient and family prior to surgery: explain the benefits, but also the risks and complications of the procedure: "At a certain time with the necessary precautions, we hope for the best outcome, but we must also explain and be prepared for the side effects."
Unintentionally, shortly after China relaxed its COVID restrictions, a few of us scholars were among the first to test positive for COVID.
On my WeChat platform, the outside world was debating the symptoms and consequences of contracting COVID. People on both sides were unaware of my thoughts at the time I tested positive.
Several of us experienced severe and mild symptoms, with the most severe being a fever of over 39 degrees and the least severe being an itchy throat. No one had difficulty breathing or lung lesions (which used to be the main cause of death). From this perspective, it appears that we should all have few problems and be able to survive.
Even though I typically have to take a lot of medicines, I don't have a drug superstition and rarely take medication for colds of any kind, much less allow someone to cheat on me. My dad is a physician. Most of the time, he forbids us from taking medications when others do (though due to our family's high blood pressure, he taught us how to pick medications). So, despite testing positive for COVID, I also use drugs infrequently. (If I have breathing problems, I will definitely get medical help.)
I have received the domestic inactivated vaccine with no adverse effects and I got high antibody levels. I am aware that my overseas relatives who received mRNA vaccine typically developed a fever. I therefore recommend that individuals in China use Chinese vaccines.
Faced with a natural disaster such as an epidemic, we should seek the truth from the facts and work together to overcome the obstacles.
Over the course of the past few years, I have witnessed how the system cares for the people and how the system's employees work responsibly. In these three years, the Beijing organization department was tasked with arranging positions for epidemic control and prevention. It was arduous work to combat the epidemic. The Party secretary of the Capital Medical University led the deputy secretary, vice president, secretary of the discipline inspection commission and other leaders of the school and faculties often slept in the school for many days in a row, dealing with problems day and night.
It was extremely challenging for each nation to choose anti-epidemic measures and determine when to adjust them.
It is extremely challenging when one cannot have the best of both worlds.
When it is impossible to use a single approach for an extended period of time, when the economy, people's livelihoods, and public sentiment are unaffordable, and when medical services cannot cover every issue, most people in our country welcome the government's change in the strategy dealing with COVID.
However, the change must be pragmatic, and we must be transparent about the benefits and drawbacks in order to maintain credibility. We should know what to say and not pretend to know something we do not know. All levels of health commissions must demonstrate realism to their superiors and the public. Also, when the public must comprehend and sympathize with the government, we should articulate that. When a policy requires the support of everyone, we cannot pretend to be sure of everything. There is no health department in the world that is certain about every aspect of the epidemic's management, and those who brag without shame diminish the government's credibility.
[ GRR's note: the Publicity Department of the Party’s Zhejiang Provincial Committee published an article on China's COVID control titled "'People first' is not 'Covid control first'" a week ago. The article also noted that "We have to remove those officials who cannot introduce the policy well from the press conferences, and invite those who can speak accurately about the policy to introduce the policy to give people more certainty, and the authority of the professional voice can be established." For more details, see your Ginger River's Twitter thread ]
It is true that the symptoms of the virus strain currently circulating are weak. However, it is uncertain whether new virus strains will emerge in the future. The pathogenicity of future strains cannot also be predicted. And it cannot be said that getting an infection is a natural vaccine and that there will be no infections in the future. In fact, novel coronaviruses are highly variable and change rapidly. Certain COVID strains have cross-reactive immunity, so that one does not infect the other. Nevertheless, there are COVID strains that lack cross-reactive immunity, so if one is infected, others will become infected as well. Numerous individuals in the United States have been infected twice or thrice.
The mortality rate following infection cannot be said to be lower than the natural mortality rate (in the absence of COVID). If this is true, we should all pursue infections for longer periods of time. In the West, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, the mortality rate is typically between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000. People should not be led to believe that COVID itself causes 0 deaths, and it will be equally difficult for people to determine whether the deaths around them after being infected with COVID are caused by COVID or a secondary cause, so we have no reason to say that we (the Chinese Mainland) will be different in the future and cannot claim that we are invulnerable.
We should allow everyone to use foreign vaccines and medications if they are superior to those made here. China is brave enough to acknowledge that in many areas, we still lag behind the rest of the world. While we have been able to work together and persistently for a very long time to come out of the historic low point and are moving forward step by step, our pride does not need to overtake other nations right away. The secret to having self-confidence is to put more emphasis on the long term and the future and not be afraid of or willing to fall behind.
[ GRR's note: China's foreign ministry confirmed on Friday that China and Germany have reached agreement on providing German vaccines for German nationals in China, and relevant arrangement will be discussed and determined by the two sides through diplomatic channels. In a joint news conference in November with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that approval of the BioNTech vaccine for expatriates in China was on the agenda of their talks and that he was hoping the use could be expanded across the Chinese mainland.]
As a matter of fact, we must advise everyone to mentally prepare themselves because the majority of us may be infected; there are various symptoms of infection, sequelae are unlikely but not impossible; there is a small but noticeable mortality rate, and there is a chance of future re-infection due to viral mutation. In the future, the emphasis will no longer be on how to prepare for never getting sick, but rather on how to handle an infection once it occurs, how to balance family and work life afterward, whether the office can coordinate internally (for example, not getting infected in large numbers at once but in batches), how to take care of the patient after infection, etc.
We can only establish credibility and prevent a public backlash for underestimating the danger by being pragmatic and communicating honestly.
In the past three years, we have taken measures to effectively protect people's health at the expense of the economy, livelihoods, and public sentiment. Now, after three years, we must develop the economy, enhance people's standard of living, and improve public sentiment in order to ensure the long-term health of the population.
In this world, there are never no-cost options. Faced with the epidemic, we should seek truth from facts and work together to tide over this difficult period.
I have no complaints regarding my infection. If I recover, these will be my notes on my illness; if I die, they will be my final words.
(P.S. To continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, those who repeatedly believe vaccines are ineffective should review recent data from Hong Kong:)
In all age groups, the number of deaths among unvaccinated individuals exceeded that of vaccinated individuals. The reduction in mortality was most pronounced among the elderly who received four vaccination doses.
In the age group of 80 and older, there were 5,172 unvaccinated deaths and 34 deaths among those who had received four doses of the vaccine.
(Even in the 50 to 60-year-old age group, 162 deaths among unvaccinated individuals were significantly higher than the one death among those who had received four doses of the vaccine.) Enditem
In another article on Friday, Rao called for reforms in the country’s public health system, including handing over hospital administration to the top disease control body. He also proposed the setting up of a national health research institution, in view of the rising demand for medical care in China. SCMP has a report on that.
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