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Tue May 26, 2020, 01:56 PM

An Interview with the Top Virologist at China's Equivalent to the CDC on Covid-19.

"The House Was On Fire..." Interview with Dr. Shao Yiming of the Chinese CDC.

I found the above, in a recent issue of Science to be intriguing. Some excerpts:

Q: Whatís the situation in Beijing right now?

A: I can go out at any time of day, and I go to work regularly. Thereís no restriction at all except on travel. If I visit other parts of China, I have to be quarantined for 2 weeks. I donít want to stop working so I donít visit other provinces. We have traffic again and air pollution. Restaurants are open, but you canít use your own chopsticks when you share dishes...

...Q: Chinaís ahead of the rest of the world in terms of responding to COVID-19, so a big question outside of China is how do we best control this without lockdowns?

A: You have to do early finding of cases, which means measuring temperatures all the time, and you have to do an epidemiological investigation and contact tracing of each case within 24 hours. Prevention has to focus on old people and nursing homes, key personnel, larger factories, pregnant women, and university and school campuses. Scale up testing: Testing is going up in China, even though there are no more cases. In order to guarantee a safe opening, you need to test more people...

...Q: In the United States, we donít like the type of intensive surveillance that China does. We think that takes away our individual rights and privacy.

A: But you have done that for almost 20 years because of 9/11. Whenever I go to the United States, I have to give your customs agent 10 fingerprints and two irises into the camera. I cannot understand why U.S. customs wants 10 fingerprints. Why not two? And including my two irises?...

...Q: When you look at the United States today, what do you think about the way we responded?

A: You have responded very badly. You didnít really have a response at the beginning, or even for a few months in some states, for reasons I could not understand. In China, on the last day of last year there was a report of a pneumonia cluster in Wuhan, the first week of January it was identified as a novel coronavirus, and on 23 January, we locked down the city of 11 million people and soon the rest of Hubeióa province of nearly 60 million. Maybe because we experienced severe acute respiratory syndrome, the memories are still there. Maybe we saw that the peopleís lives are more precious than the economy...

...Q: One big topic in the United States right now is whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this pandemic. Whatís the reaction in China to the U.S. government blaming that institute?

A: Before your politicians began attacking the Wuhan institute, Chinese people were the first group to challenge the Wuhan institute scientists. There are conspiracy theorists in China too. The instituteís geographical location is very close to the seafood market [where an early cluster of cases surfaced]. And there also happened to be a biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) lab there. [BSL-4 labs are for the most dangerous pathogens.] For ordinary people with limited information and knowledge of science, when they are in danger, they are afraid, and they become curious about conspiracy theories. This is understandable. But for a government and top officials with lots of good information to say this? I canít understand that...

I found this interview enlightening as it addressed cultural and ethical differences between our countries. In this inteview Dr. Shao Yiming was possessed of something we lack here at our highest levels, intellectual and insightful honesty.

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