Considering nearly all of the recently diagnosed new domestic novel coronavirus infections have been traced to imported cases, proper medical quarantine at points of entry is no doubt a crucial first line of defense in the country's fight against the pandemic.
The present 14+7 quarantine regime, under which people arriving from overseas are subject to 14 days of compulsory quarantine in designated venues plus seven days of at-home self-quarantine, is obviously inadequate to guarantee everyone who completes the regime is virus-free. Or we would not have found so many people who tested positive afterward.
However, as the national epidemic control authorities accede, further prolonging compulsory, centralized quarantine will be substantially more costly, thus it is not advisable at this point.
The next-best scenario is all who arrive from overseas, even after those first 21 days, practice self-discipline and observe strict social distancing, so that should they be infected, they do not unknowingly pass the virus to others.
Multiple recent cases of superspreaders in the country illustrate just how critically important social distancing is to breaking the chain of domestic transmission.
Last April in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, one person passed the virus to 44 people. Earlier this month in Dalian, Liaoning province, one person conveyed it to 11, who later relayed it to another 33. By Sunday afternoon, the latest superspreader, believed responsible for bringing the virus from Heilongjiang to neighboring Jilin province, had reportedly passed the virus to 102 people. As time goes by, the number may grow.
All the 102 reportedly got infected at the four "health" products promotion sessions the superspreader presided over recently, all occurring in closed spaces.
The alarming cluster of new infections has prompted renewed calls for awareness of social distancing and avoiding gatherings. As Spring Festival gets closer, after a whole year of vigilance since the inception of the pandemic, many people wish to make up for the festive mood that was missing last year because of the epidemic.
But frustrating as it is, we will have to remain on the same high alert as last year to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Both central and local governments are appealing for people to avoid traveling, and to stay away from crowded public venues and sizable gatherings. They are at the same time calling on institutions to hold annual meetings online to reduce gatherings. Even family reunions are expected to be kept below 10 people.
This may not be easily acceptable to some, because the Lunar New Year is traditionally about family gatherings and socializing. But heeding professional advice is the best way to protect ourselves and our families.