Statement by Madame Wu Yi Head of the Chinese Delegation, Vice Premier and Minister of Health of the People's Republic of China at the General Debate of the 56th World Health Assembly
20 May 2003
The Chinese delegation supports the current World Health Assembly in making Health Environment for Children its theme. The Chinese Government stands ready to make unremitting efforts to create a healthy environment for its 300 million children and children across the world.
Nevertheless, we are very clear that our world is still faced with some unknown infectious diseases. They pose a threat to the life and health of children and they are a challenge to the whole mankind. The recent outbreak of SARS is just a case in point. It has struck some countries and regions. Of which china has been the hardest hit. SARS is a new type of infectious disease not yet fully understood by mankind. At the onset of the epidemic, we did not have an adequate understanding of how grave the epidemic would be. There were defects in our control and no uninterrupted flow of information. All that plus inefficiency of some localities and departments has made our work of SARS control somewhat passive for a period of time.
But the Chinese Government soon came to realize the challenge of the epidemic and has taken a series of prompt and decisive measures to fight SARS. We have put the SARS control on top of the agenda for government at all levels. The National SARS Control Headquarters has been set up to provide unified leadership over nationwide SARS prevention and control. Local governments at all levels have also set up SARS control steering panels and introduced a SARS control responsibility system for leaders of local governments. The Central Government has sent experts-based inspection teams to 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on China's mainland to supervise and guide local SARS control work at close quarters. The Chinese Government has already listed SARS among the statutory notifiable infectious diseases. A Regulations on Public Health Emergencies was formulated and promulgated and promulgated. An open and transparent SARS cases report and information release system has been put in place to brief the WHO and the general public on the epidemic every day. No locality or department is permitted to underreport, misreport or cover up SARS cases, or delay such reports. Early detection, early reporting, early isolation and early treatment are required. Stringent quarantine and precautions have been conducted in means of public transport such as airplanes, trains, ships, buses and key areas as well as ports of exit and entry, where health declaration forms must be filled and submitted. Rigorous sanitation measures have been taken to disinfect SARS contaminated places and articles and we felt deeply that preventing infection within hospitals is of vital importance. Epidemiological investigation has been strengthened. All SARS patients or suspected patients have been put in isolation and given treatment wherever detected. All those having had close contact with SARS patients have been put in isolation or under observation wherever detected. Meanwhile, extensive efforts have been made to publicize information on SARS control and prevention and to enhance public awareness and ability of self-protection, thus getting the whole society mobilized and ensuring mass prevention and control. Designated hospitals or wards for SARS cases have been set up in many localities. Patients are hospitalized and treated in time. Traditional, western and a combination of the two therapies have been applied to treat and cure SARS patients. China is a country of 900 million farmers. We cannot but place priority on epidemic control in the vast countryside. Considering the practical difficulties of farmers, we have set up a special SARS fund to finance free treatment of farmer SARS patients. In order to prevent the spread of the epidemic to the rural areas, we strengthened management over migrant workers, trying to reduce their mobility and providing free treatment to patients wherever they are infected. Medical assistance has been offered to low-income urban residents. In order to find out about the source of the epidemic, develop rapid diagnostics tests and a cure, we organized experts in various fields to strengthen SARS-related R&D and jointly work for key medical breakthroughs, where some progress has been made. We believe it necessary to actively undertake international and regional exchanges and cooperation. We invited WHO experts to china for investigation many times. They gave us many suggestions, which were helpful for our SARS control work. We have also conveyed to ASEAN our ideas and initiatives about regional cooperation on SARS.
We have set up a joint SARS-control working mechanism with the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. We have provided Hong Kong with medical materials it needs and stand ready to send medical care workers there if so requested. We have conducted multi-form cooperation and exchanges on SARS control with the region of Taiwan.
At present, SARS control and prevention in china are proceeding in a well-organized manner. Although in the past few days the epidemic has been relatively stable with a tendency of decreasing cases, the situation remains serious, as there are still a small number of new cases every day and china is a country with a large and mobile population. At present our fight against SARS is at a crucial stage. We are keenly aware of the difficulty, complexity and the possibility of a relapse in SARS control and prevention and will never be off guard against SARS. We are will prepared in all aspects. With its strong leadership and people united as one as well as with the understanding, trust and support of the international community, China will prevail over the formidable scourge of SARS through persistent endeavour.
In our fight against SARS, the international community has shown its understanding and extended its support. On behalf of the Chinese Government and people, I hereby wish to extend sincere gratitude to all countries and international organizations for their understanding, moral supports as well as financial, material and technological assistance.
The outbreak of SARS is a tragic incident for which China has paid a high price. On the basis of the experience and lessons we have learned the hard way, I would like to make the following three observations:
1.It is important to give full play to the role of WHO in global health affairs and strengthen international and bilateral cooperation. Any disease, especially new ones of unknown causes, is the common enemy of all mankind and can be effectively addressed only by cooperation at international and regional levels. At present, WHO certainly has a greater role to play in information exchange, personnel training, technical support and resource exploitation, etc., in the fight against SARS. At the same time, it is necessary to promote and enhance bilateral cooperation, give play to respective advantages, actively explore the source of the virus and share SARS control experience and research results. Efforts should be made to coordinate countries' exit-and-entry quarantine and other administrative measures so as to effectively check the spread of SARS and avoid harm to social and economic development brought about by over-reacting. We consider it necessary to set up a global SARS control fund, and China is ready to make its contribution in this regard.
2. It is essential to establish and improve global contingency mechanism and upgrade the capacity to cope with the scourge of diseases. Countries should establish and improve a network of epidemic monitoring, prevention, treatment and information exchange. Once something unusual occurs, countries should brief each other in time according to the agreed standards and via agreed channels so that countries can judge and handle the situation correctly.
3. It is imperative to coordinate and synchronize economic growth and social development so that they will complement each other. Economic growth is the very foundation for social developments. The development of public health,education and other social undertakings, is not only the aim of economic growth, but also an obligation of governments of all countries . Investing in health is tantamount to investing in future economic growth, and a society of good health is one of rich wealth.
Globalization has increasingly turned the homeland of mankind into a global village. No country can hope to live a life of leisure and comfort behind the closed doors. Once a crisis breaks out, a mere complaining or blaming others does not help. Instead, mutual understanding, cooperation and joint countermeasures are the only solution to the crisis. The Chinese Government stands ready to sincerely cooperate with other countries and will shoulder its own responsibility, perform its duty and play a constructive role in fighting the scourge of global diseases.
Thank you, Mr. President.