OPINIONS Experts reflect on challenges, opportunities in post-COVID era


Experts reflect on challenges, opportunities in post-COVID era

By Li Qian | SHINE

09:28, October 22, 2020

In the post-COVID-19 era, what challenges and opportunities are we facing? The 2020 Pujiang Innovation Forum has invited top medical experts to share their views with the public.

Xu Guanhua, Chairman of the Pujiang Innovation Forum, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading all over the world, which is a big threat to the public health system as well as a huge blow to the economy. Sustained uncertainty in the overseas fight against COVID-19 has increased difficulties in China’s economic operation. Therefore, China should turn difficulties into opportunities.

The anti-virus fight can drive the development of scientific and technological innovation.

On one hand, China should focus on researching medicines, vaccines and diagnostics. It should launch global cooperation.

On the other hand, China should grab opportunities in the new round of technological and industrial revolution and step up efforts in the cutting-edge fields such as the digital economy and artificial intelligence. In the zhai (homebody) economy, remote working and online education, as well as emerging industries such as smart manufacturing and unmanned delivery have shown great growth potential.

In a word, China should adhere to independent innovation by fostering young scientists, supporting small-to-medium-sized technological companies, increasing supports to basic research and actively taking part in global technological cooperation.

Zhang Wenhong, Head of Shanghai’s expert team for the treatment of coronavirus patients, director of the infectious disease department at Huashan Hospital

In the post-COVID-19 era, we should continue wearing masks in crowded places, washing hands frequently and keeping social distance. If people can follow these measures, it will greatly reduce the risks of getting infected.

In China, many places have been reporting zero or very few domestic cases, including very few unexpected, small-scale outbreaks which are not a second wave of infections. But globally, it’s still the first wave because curves in some countries are rising sharply.

It’s hard to say whether COVID-19 will co-exist with humans for a long time. Based on current cases, people can carry the virus up to 100 days. Also, we don’t have evidence to prove that COVID-19 will become like hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus that can’t be killed and that leads to chronic infection.

In the fight against COVID-19, my colleagues and I at Huashan Hospital are doing clinical research on a home-grown neutralizing antibody treatment. It can “neutralize” any effect that the virus causes. It is considered the most promising treatment in the short term. If we succeed, it will save many severely ill patients.

It requires global efforts to take scientific and efficient measures to contain the virus. East Asian countries are doing a great job, and China has joined efforts to help less-developed countries fight the pandemic. But some developed countries haven’t reached a consensus. I hope the World Health Organization keeps playing a leading role.

Zhao Fengxian, Researcher at the Columbia University

Some people ask whether it’s necessary to always wear masks and keep distance if COVID-19 becomes a new normal. I think it’s fine to wear a mask every day and I’m optimistic that we won’t need to wear them two years from now. But long-term social distancing may cause psychological distress.

The US still needs time to contain the virus. In China, regional outbreaks were just small-scale ones and we didn’t need to worry about them.

My hometown, Shanghai, has done really a good job in the anti-virus fight. Such a metropolis nearly equaling to the size of New York in urban activities almost never had large outbreaks. I’m so proud of my hometown, and it is what every scientist should think about.

Was it wearing masks and social distancing that prevented the virus from entering the city? We should keep a close eye to it. The “Shanghai experience“ will set an example for the whole world.

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