Science and technology changes the life while innovation shapes the future. Created by Pujiang Innovation Forum, the interview series program themed the “Nth Dimension of Parallel Future” aims to demonstrate the cutting-edge research and sparks of ideas of scientific innovators, young scientists and industry leaders. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a barometer of the social public health safety work. With “Opportunities and Challenges in the Post-pandemic Era” as the thematic direction, the brand-new chapter of the “Nth Dimension of Parallel Future” in 2020 has specially invited experts and scholars in different industry sectors to share their opinions about the industries, industry outlook and future development trends in the post-pandemic era from the perspective of their own professional fields.
The guest of this issue is Zhang Wenhong, Director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Shanghai Huashan Hospital affiliated to Fudan University. He gave his insights on the known and unknown aspects of the public health safety system, the changes and non-changes of scientific protection, and the continuation of talent cultivation in the post-pandemic era. Let's listen to him.
The first wave of the global pandemic is not over yet, and the second wave now seems too early for the world
Q: You mentioned earlier that the second wave of the pandemic will definitely arrive in autumn or winter, and we know that not long ago, there was a small wave of cases in Beijing. So, is this the second wave you mentioned? How should we view this wave of pandemic in Beijing?
Zhang Wenhong: As for the global pandemic, the first wave has not been over yet, and the second wave now seems to be too early for the world. The situation in China is different from that in the rest of the world. The outbreak in Beijing should not be regarded as the second wave in autumn or winter. It should be a relatively sudden and small-scale outbreak, and the intensity of it is still within controllable range. Besides, the so-called second wave must have a very significant peak, and spread for a period of time before it is contained. As a whole, China has done a better job in the fight against the pandemic than that in the international arena. For a long period of time, the number of new cases in most areas of China has been close to zero. What strategy is China pursuing now? The strategy is that the domestic number of new cases can be close to zero rather than be the absolute zero.
COVID-19 should be either defeated or controlled, and there is still a long way to go before a unified global anti-pandemic strategy can be developed.
Q: What it is like to be in a long-term coexistence of human and nCoV? Will the nCoV really appear like a seasonal cold?
Zhang Wenhong: It has not been too long since COVID-19 broke out for the first time. According to the current data, it has only been half a year since December, so it is difficult for us to conclude whether this virus will persist in human society for long. At this stage, we have to do two things. First, try to completely defeat the virus with a vaccine. Second, strengthen our pandemic prevention measures to bring this pandemic under human control on a global scale. China has set a good example in this regard. How to coordinate the fight against the pandemic worldwide for a long time to come is a very big scientific question.
Q: From a global perspective, how to establish a more efficient pandemic prevention system?
Zhang Wenhong: Now the problem is that a complete consensus among developed countries in the world on many anti-pandemic strategies has not been reached, though the measures taken by different countries are relatively similar, for example, Singapore and the United States take almost the same methods, but Singapore's measures are obviously much stricter than those of the United States. China's current strategy is more severe than that of Singapore. Why does it lead to a different situation in the fight against the pandemic? There are a range of reasons, many of which are related to the basic situation of a country, the economic situation, and the national acceptance of the anti-pandemic strategies. Under such a circumstance where the pandemic development situations, the economic conditions and the public attitudes vary from country to country, there is still a long way to go before a unified global anti-pandemic strategy can be finally developed.
Q: Recently, many people, especially parents of international students, are very concerned about what criteria should be met to restore the normal international flow of people (such as tourism and studying abroad). Are there qualitative and quantitative indicators?
Zhang Wenhong: In fact, as you know about the international exchange rules, because of the inconsistency of the pandemic situations between various countries, people from low-pandemic-risk countries and regions may be accepted by high-pandemic-risk countries and regions, bt conversely, people from high-pandemic-risk countries and regions may be rejected or isolated by low-pandemic-risk countries and regions. In this case, as long as there is isolation, the intercommunication will be incomplete. So, under what circumstances will the barrier-free international intercommunication be realized? The most basic requirement is that the various countries need to bring the pandemic under control at a relatively low level.
A healthy and sustainable medical talent training system should be the joint efforts of the senior, middle-aged and young people
Q: During this pandemic, a large number of young medical staff have joined the front line and suffered a lot of physical and psychological pressure. What would you like to say about their future career development and personal growth?
Zhang Wenhong: This time, many young people have participated in the pandemic prevention and treatment work, especially the post-90s who have thrived rapidly. I think we should pay more attention to the growth of this group of young people. The setbacks they have experienced will help them grow, but the whole environment should provide them with very good protection to promote their healthier growth. It is an immutable truth that each age bring forthnew genius on this noble land. At the same time, there are also a large number of senior experts in our field that we admire who are still active in the front line against the pandemic. Today, China is displaying a scene where all the seniors, middle-aged and young people are struggling to advance together. Our country has paid enough attention to these fighters against the pandemic, and we hope that they will grow better in the future.
Experts are not necessarily correct. The core of peer-to-peer conversation is science
Q: Recently, people are paying great attention to you. It is not only because of your professional identity, but more because of your easy-to-understand expression. How did you master this "skill" in communicating with the public?
Zhang Wenhong: In fact, communication between any country and the people is extremely important, not only in China, but also on a global scale. When talking about scientific issues, no one is more authoritative than others. Experts should be at the level of trying to gain public understanding, because we can't guarantee what we are saying is correct. If experts are always correct, why are there so many setbacks in the fight against the pandemic? As long as keeping such a bottom line, we are not just communicating with the people, but are rater discussing with them in many cases. China has 1.4 billion people fighting against the pandemic, not just medical workers, and we are all talking about anti-pandemic matters equally. But what is the core of peer-to-peer conversation? The core is science. As long as it is based on science, the more communications and peer-to-peer conversations we practice, the more positive it will be for our fight against the pandemic.
Masks, hand washing, social distance are the three indispensable elements of pandemic prevention
Q: After this pandemic, people have improved many of their original living habits; for example, we are now accustomed to wearing masks and having meals separately. As China is entering the "post-pandemic era", what other daily habits can we improve in the prevention of infectious diseases? How to rebuild people's confidence in the fight against widespread infectious diseases?
Zhang Wenhong: So far, the pandemic prevention and control in most parts of China has been very good. Even for the outbreak in Beijing, the government has responded forcefully, quickly, and precisely. As long as we do a good job in self-protection, avoid risky areas, wear masks, wash hands frequently, and maintain social distancing, I believe that the future of China's fight against the pandemic will be bright.
Q: Recently the government has just issued a guideline for protection in low-risk areas in summer, mentioning that raw meat products should not be rinsed directly under the tap to prevent spillage and contamination. How should we, the public, interpret the requirements of this new guideline?
Zhang Wenhong: This guide is actually related to the recent market in Beijing. It means that you should not wash raw meat products with a tap that is prone to splashing. It can be avoided by washing the products in a basin and then pour out the water. During this process, you should also prevent the meat you wash from splashing on your body. The most important point is that we must wash our hands with soap or liquid soap and then rinse them with running water; this is the only one way to keep hygienic. This is the core. If the meat does not splash, your hands will contaminate you as you have touched it. What is the last action? Wash your hands with running water and soapy detergent. This matter itself should not be a very serious one, so just pay more attention to it. These are some tips. The most important thing in protection is still the masks, hand washing and social distancing I mentioned earlier, and avoiding areas with very dense crowds and no ventilation.
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