General Secretary Xi Jinping Chairs Symposium with Experts and Scholars

On the afternoon of 2 June, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, President of the People's Republic of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, chaired a symposium with experts and scholars where he made important remarks.

Underlining people's security as the cornerstone of national security, Xi called for stronger awareness of worst-case scenarios and potential dangers and constant efforts to forestall major risks to people's health. He pointed out the imperative to build a strong public health system with sound early-warning and emergency response mechanisms and greater capacity for prevention, control and treatment. A strong and solid protection network against infectious diseases is essential for safeguarding people's health, Xi said.

Xi noted that facing the sudden strike of COVID-19, the CPC Central Committee stayed on top of the situation, made resolute decisions, and put people's lives and health front and center. All CPC members, the armed forces and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups have fought as one, made all-out efforts and put in place the most rigorous, comprehensive and thorough response measures. As a result of all these, the nation has made major strategic gains in the battle against COVID-19. Such achievements demonstrate the clear political strength of the CPC leadership and China's socialist system. They reflect the growing composite national strength of China since reform and opening-up. They speak to the enormous power of unity when all CPC members, the armed forces and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups pull together to tide over the difficulties.

Xi underscored that in the fight against COVID-19, the experts and scholars have worked with a strong sense of political mission and responsibility. Drawing on professional expertise, they offered suggestions and recommendations in areas such as assessing the COVID-19 situation, improving control strategies, providing treatment guidance, accelerating scientific research, revising laws and regulations, and enhancing international cooperation. On behalf of the CPC Central Committee, Xi expressed sincere gratitude to the experts and scholars for their important contribution to the battle against COVID-19.

Xi stressed that people's health is the very basis for social progress and development. Since the 18th Party Congress, under the guidelines for health work in the new era, the CPC Central Committee has bolstered the institutional underpinnings for improving people's health, prioritized disease prevention and developed the system of public health service steadily. These have enabled China to protect its people from health emergencies such as influenza A (H1N1), H7N9 and Ebola. The country has also significantly reduced morbidity rates of major infectious diseases. With the nation marching toward the Two Centenary Goals, better health care is of fundamental importance. It must be taken as an integral part and an important pillar in the overall national strategy.

Xi stressed that a sound disease prevention and control system is crucial for people's well-being, public health security and economic and social stability. He set out the following priorities for future efforts:

· Making disease prevention more targeted and effective. The relevant institutions and mechanisms should be further reformed to make their mandate more clear and focused, and professional competence improved.

· Setting up a mechanism to ensure steady input in public health, which will help improve the basic facilities for disease prevention and control and improve the quality of public health service programs.

· Optimizing the set-up of the functions of disease prevention and control agencies, and establishing mechanisms for better division of work and closer coordination between agencies at different levels.

· Building up the capacity of national disease prevention and control agencies in terms of technological strength, expertise and human resources.

· Improving the mechanisms for disease control agencies to better coordinate with urban and rural residential communities. Township clinics and community health centers should play a bigger part in disease prevention, so as to strengthen joint prevention and control at the community level.

· Developing new mechanisms for collaboration between medical institutions and disease prevention agencies, to facilitate their exchange of personnel, information and resources as well as cross-supervision and monitoring.

· Building a strong team of disease control professionals, modernizing the training and career development mechanism for them, and ensuring sufficient disease control professionals at the community level.

· Establishing a stream of high-caliber public health academies and cultivating public health professionals good at resolving practical issues in etiology, assessing epidemic trends and patterns, field epidemiological investigation and laboratory testing.

Xi stressed the need to strengthen early-stage monitoring and warning for epidemics as a pressing task in improving the public health system. To this end, efforts should be made on the following fronts:

• Improving the monitoring system for epidemics and public health emergencies, diseases of unknown causes and abnormal health incidents. Assessment and monitoring should be more responsive and accurate. A smart warning mechanism with multiple triggers will be built, together with mechanisms with multiple channels of early warning and monitoring, so as to improve the capacity for timely assessment and coordinated projection.

• Developing the network of laboratory testing to enhance the testing capacity for infectious diseases.

•Establishing a mechanism for coordinated monitoring by public health agencies and medical institutions. The role of community-level health institutions as frontline posts should be strengthened, so as to ensure early detection, early reporting and early handling of cases.

•Setting up a system for public health emergency response. This includes contingency plans to be implemented by tiered response teams specialized in situation assessment, epidemiological investigation, medical treatment, laboratory testing, community guidance and supplies allocation.

• Community health workers should have more training and exercises to enhance their knowledge and capability of early-stage handling.

• More efforts should be made to improve the public awareness of health emergency response to make people more informed and better able to protect themselves and one another when public health emergencies hit.

Xi urged Party committees and governments at all levels to put in place mechanisms for the regular review of their work related to health care, such as preparedness and control of major infectious diseases. The mechanisms must ensure clear direction, efficient organization, smooth coordination and thorough implementation.

Xi noted that in treating COVID-19 patients, China has been putting the people first, for nothing in the world is more precious than people's lives. To treat and rescue each and every one of the infected, from newborns to centenarians, we have mobilized resources across the country in an unprecedented way and made sure that medical expense is not a problem for any COVID-19 patient.

Xi called for better coordination among medical and health institutions across regions to mobilize resources and personnel and collectively respond to public health emergencies. It is also imperative to establish and improve a tiered and category-based treatment system for major diseases.

Xi urged more efforts to enhance public hospital's capacity for treating infectious diseases, improve standards for installing facilities for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in general hospitals, and ramp up reserves of emergency medical capacity. A three-tiered network of medical services needs to be improved with the focus on urban and rural communities, border regions and point-of-entry cities, county-level hospitals and hospitals of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is important to build national medical centers and regional health centers to enhance treatment capacity of major infectious diseases.

Xi stressed that public health campaigns are successful examples of adopting the Party's mass line in health protection and disease prevention. We must draw on the experience of fighting COVID-19 and explore new ways to enrich public health campaigns and extend their scope from environment and sanitation preservation to society-wide comprehensive health management. Overarching and long-term issues concerning people's health must be addressed.

Xi stressed the need to improve people's living environment, strengthen public health infrastructure building, improve urban and rural environment and sanitation, and advance the building of cities with good sanitation. Among the general public, we will promote healthy, green and environmentally friendly lifestyles, greater health awareness and healthy diets and living habits. Health needs to be factored into all policies. The concept of full life cycle health management should be incorporated into every part of city planning, construction and management.

Xi called on Party committees and governments at all levels to prioritize public health work and explore more effective ways of social mobilization.

Xi noted that the combination of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine is one of the major characteristics of China's COVID-19 response. It is also a vivid example of making innovation while carrying forward the best practices of TCM.

He highlighted the imperative to comb through and bring out the best of Chinese medicine, set up a batch of supporting platforms for TCM research, reform and improve the mechanisms for the review and approval of TCM, and promote the R&D of new medicines and development of the industry. He called for strengthening the service system of TCM and stepping up the emergency response and treatment capacity of TCM hospitals.

Xi also urged better training of TCM talents to build a high-caliber national TCM professional team for epidemic prevention and treatment and stronger leadership and better organization of the TCM-related work. TCM and Western medicine should reinforce each other and move forward hand-in hand.

Xi stressed the importance of targeted legislative work in the public health sector, including the revision of the law on prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and the formulation of a law on preparedness for and response to public health emergencies. It is also essential to improve the anti-epidemic law enforcement system with clearly defined mandates, standard procedures and vigorous enforcement. These efforts are aimed at enhancing the legal framework for better response against major emerging infectious diseases and sudden outbreaks, where central and local governments, different government departments and the administrative and professional agencies each has clear responsibilities.

Outreach programs about laws and regulations on public health security and epidemic prevention and treatment will be carried out among the general public to drive home the understanding that everything must be done in accordance with the law.

Xi pointed out that science and technology are a powerful weapon for mankind in the fight against diseases and that scientific advances and technological innovation are indispensable for humanity to prevail over major disasters and epidemics.

He stressed the need to increase the technology input in public health, intensify the inter-disciplinary research on making breakthroughs in key and core technologies and make full use of our new type of nationwide mechanism.

There must be deep-going reform on the institutions and mechanisms for the cultivation of research talents. More should be done to discover, nurture and incentivize scientists with strategic value and innovators of science and technology, bring more top-notch professionals into the research team and create conditions for them to excel.

Xi said that since the onset of COVID-19, China has been guided by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and actively fulfilled its international obligations. We enhanced friendship and cooperation with the WHO and relevant countries, actively shared information on COVID-19 and relevant experience with the rest of the world and provided material and technological assistance to over 100 countries and international organizations to the best of our ability. All these attest to China's sense of responsibility as a major country. China will continue to honor its international obligations, leverage its role as the world's biggest supplier of medical supplies, and build a community of health for all.

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