China to clearly define roles of CDCs after COVID-19 outbreak

The headquarters of China's CDC in Beijing. (Photo: China CDC)                                                                        

China will clearly define the roles and responsibilities of its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) at the national, provincial, municipal and county levels to improve their capabilities to prevent and tackle acute infectious diseases, a senior health official said on Sunday.

Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, said at a press conference that some problems and weak links were exposed during the fight against COVID-19, and China's four-level disease containment system need to be defined more clearly.

In the future, the national CDC should enhance its decision-making abilities in scientific research and development, laboratory testing, work guidance and etiologic analysis, he said.

Provincial CDCs should reinforce their roles in guiding, overseeing and appraising regional disease containment and training professionals, he added.

Municipal and county-level CDCs need to improve field epidemiology investigations and regular monitoring of the spectrum of infectious diseases in their regions, said Ma.

Furthermore, county-level CDCs and community-based medical institutions should strengthen disease containment in communities, laying a solid foundation for the grassroots disease prevention, he noted.

A press conference is held by China's State Council Information Office in Beijing, following the release of a white paper on the country's battle against COVID-19, June 7, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

"We will clearly define the roles of the four-level CDCs, straighten institutional relations and build a multilevel system of coordination and collaboration," he said.

Nevertheless, it was proven in the fight against COVID-19 that China's medical and health system and public health emergency response system are effective in general, Ma said.

The Chinese government published a white paperon the country's response to the pandemic on Sunday.

Established in January 2002, China CDCis a governmental and national-level technical organization specializing in disease control and prevention and public health. It gives technical guidance to the provincial, municipal and city-level CDCs. There have been calls since the outbreak of COVID-19 epidemic to empower the CDCs and improve their abilities in providing public health services.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese respiratory specialist, called for CDCs to have greater autonomyat a press conference in late February.

"In China, the position of [the] CDC is too low. It is just a technological body under the leadership of the National Health Commission," said Zhong, also head of the high-level expert group appointed by the commission to fight COVID-19.

Instead of reporting directly to central authorities, CDC branches in China have to report layer by layer, the respiratory expert said, calling for further empowerment of the CDCs to improve the country's response mechanism for public health emergencies.