As many countries still struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, a rare offline world trade event, the third China International Import Expo (CIIE), offered the general public a chance to get closer to the behind-the-scenes "heroes" — futuristic technologies, medical devices and anti-epidemic supplies that helped the country where COVID-19 was first reported become the first one to recover from it.
While the overall exhibition scale has been expanded nearly 30,000 square meters, a newly added exhibition area this year has attracted the public's attention, in which attendees can learn about various kinds of anti-epidemic products, technologies and services such as mobile nucleic acid detection labs, much-needed ventilators and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines for COVID-19 treatment.
During the epidemic, China became a major exporter of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves and goggles to countries around the world. About 48 exhibitors at the CIIE also displayed medical supplies like masks and protective suits, which people are quite familiar with, demonstrating collaboration as "a priority" in global anti-virus combat.
Although COVID-19 outbreaks have put all countries through tough times, Chinese people have shared the full experience and done their best to assist the international community, Chinese President Xi Jinping said during the opening ceremony of the CIIE on Wednesday night.
China has provided assistance to 150 countries and seven international organizations and exported over 179 billion masks, 1.73 billion protective suits, and 543 million testing kits.
Meanwhile, cutting-edge technologies have become much more effective in combating the coronavirus.
Fighting COVID-19 smartly
At GE Healthcare's stand, the Global Times reporter saw its "Noah fever clinical solution" with "Revolution Maxima CT" technology at its core. It can be used to help identify the location of patients and scan a person's lung in two seconds. It can also provide a chest examination image within 10 seconds, making it 30 percent more effective compared to ordinary CT scanners.
"Two units of this scanner were installed at Leishenshan makeshift hospital [in Wuhan] for treating COVID-19 patients, making it a very important tool for precise treatment," Zhong Luyin, PR manager of GE Healthcare, told the Global Times.
Given the epidemic situation remains severe, healthcare companies have been forced to work around the clock to advance and upgrade their products, and this "Revolution Maxima CT" technology had been developed under such circumstances, Zhong noted. "We have received over 100 orders for this machine in China," she said.
While the world races against time to develop effective vaccine, major pharmaceutical firms, including vaccine developers such as AstraZeneca, showcased their latest vaccine developments at the expo.
HK-headquartered AstraZeneca plc demonstrated a board at the expo, introducing the newly-developed AZD1222 vaccine it jointly developed with Oxford University. The vaccine is still undergoing clinical trials, and the company announced that a COVID-19 anti-body combination, AZD7442, will undergo two phase-III clinic trials soon.
What's more, BioNtech, the German partner of Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun Pharma, made its debut in China, and brought with it a mRNA vaccine, which provides potent immunity against COVID-19. But the reporter wasn't able to find the vaccine on site.
Geng Yan, medical manager of Fosun Pharma, told the Global Times that the vaccine has achieved phase-I research in China and data is still being analyzed, while no adverse reactions have been reported.
It has already begun phase-III research internationally, but no results have come out. If the vaccine is approved by the Chinese government, it will soon be made available to the country's market.
The vaccine could be produced at a massive volume very quickly, meaning it could be put into urgent use if China needs. Even as COVID-19 has already been controlled in China, Fosun will take into consideration China's needs, instead of simply thinking about the market's perspective.
Also, Fosun Beiling（Beijing）Medical Technology Co., Ltd . showed a negative pressure ambulance on site. This ambulance, modified by Mercedes-Benz, is equipped with a negative pressure filter device imported from Germany that purifies and filters the air, preventing any cross-infections during patient transfers.
Yan Kewei, sales director of Fosun Beiling, told the Global Times that the company has produced more than 300 such ambulances during the epidemic, many of which have been used in frontline hospitals, such as Huoshenshan and Leishenshan, two specialized hospitals in Wuhan.
"Even though we are now in the post-pandemic era (in China), the outbreak could come back at any time, so China needs anti-pandemic materials. Currently, China does not have enough such vehicles, so the market demand is huge," Yan said.
Under the unprecedented challenge of the global epidemic, healthcare has become the center of public vision. The whole society is now thinking about how to create a safe and healthy future, Gu Yushao, Medtronic's senior vice president and president of Greater China, told the Global Times.
At the CIIE, the American Irish-domiciled medical device company displayed a range of treatments and solutions for treating critically-ill patients, including their latest generation of ECMO technology and crucial ventilators used for treating COVID-19 patients.
In front of a smart unmanned vaccination cabin developed by French pharmaceutical Sanofi, workers at the stand explained how vaccinations can be performed automatically by robotic arms following a series of identification and verification procedures, attracting much attention.
With the help of such cabins, doctors can remotely command the vaccination process. The vaccines can be stored in low-temperature environments in the cabin, which is also equipped with automatic disinfection functions.
The cabin can be quickly deployed in areas suffering from an epidemic but with limited medical resources, which could greatly ease the pressure on local clinics.