As the novel coronavirus situation in China is worsening by the day — with increasing numbers of infections reported and high- or medium-risk zones designated in places that include Beijing, and Hebei and Liaoning provinces — the country is now facing perhaps the most testing times since the difficult days of its struggle against the virus early last year.
Experts had warned that the virus was likely to make a comeback in the winter and, as a result, government officials at various levels have put prevention and control measures in place. Nonetheless, the speed and scale of the ongoing resurgence of the virus have to some extent caught people off-guard, as evidenced by the detection of several "super-spreaders" and transmissions in such high-priority areas as hospitals and ports.
In Dalian, Liaoning province, one person infected 11 others at a family gathering, and then spread the virus to 33 people including those living in his apartment building. In Shenyang, the provincial capital, an elderly woman infected 27 people including medical workers, prompting local officials to impose community lockdowns and conduct massive nucleic acid testing of millions of residents.
One reason behind the increasingly challenging situation is that the latency period of the virus is getting longer following a series of mutations. This markedly weakens the effectiveness of quarantines as a line of defense, as a patient can be contagious even after the officially required two weeks of isolation. It also makes screenings much more difficult, as officials in Dalian said that in one case they conducted 11 nucleic acid tests before the person was confirmed to be infected.
All this suggests that the antivirus experiences accumulated after more than a year and the measures that previously proved effective may need to be reconsidered to deal with the evolving situation. Extra efforts must be made in a timely and resolute manner to stem the transmission of the virus. For example, Beijing has already extended the required quarantine period from two to three weeks for overseas arrivals, and more than 73,000 people including bus drivers and community workers have already been vaccinated in the capital.
The upcoming two months will be pivotal to the country's anti-epidemic efforts, as Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said recently. That requires every one of us to play our part by stringently observing anti-infection rules and staying put during the Lunar New Year holiday.
Spring Festival celebrations may be muted this year, but that will help ensure that we can celebrate an end to the pandemic in the Year of the Ox.