written by Manasi Bibekar
In China, the first reports of an outbreak came on 31st December 2019. Chinese leaders were seen as slow to react to the outbreak that started in Wuhan in China, and hiding information and even punishing those who raised the alarm. A week later it was confirmed a new virus- coronavirus was spreading. At that time, there were no deaths reported due to the virus. But soon that changed.
In January, a team led by Yong-Zhen Zhang, of the Shanghai public health clinical center and school of public health, published the initial viral genome n 2 open access sites, drawing praise for the swiftest sequencing effort ever. Later that month, Chinese doctors and scientists reported the first description of the new disease in the lancet medical journal.
Within weeks, the number of cases and fatalities were increasing rapidly and soon China became the epicenter of global coronavirus concerns. The bold and strict actions taken by the government of China has helped to bring COVID 19 under control. “China has done an incredible job at slowing the speed of coronavirus”, says Mr. David Aikman, Chief representative Officer, World Economic Forum, China. But how did China move to contain the virus?
On 23 January, Wuhan and later other 15 cities in Hubei province were placed under strict quarantine after the increase of coronavirus infections in those cities. The Wuhan lockdown included suspension of all public transport, and control of movement in and out of the city. It affected almost 11 million in Wuhan and over 57 million in fifteen other cities. Later, on 2nd February 2020, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, implemented a seven day lockdown in which only one person per household was allowed to exit once each in two days, and most of the highway exits were closed. During these lockdowns, the doors to factories, schools, offices and companies were closed. “Some of the most affective steps China has taken are around reducing the transmission rate by encouraging work from home, closing schools and prohibiting large gatherings”, explains Aikman. On 13th march, Huangshi and Qianjiang were the first cities to remove strict restrictions. On 8th April 2020, the Wuhan lockdown finally ended. The contribution of the citizens by washing hands and not overburdening health systems is also noteworthy. “The combination of top-down policies and bottom-up commitment from ordinary people to fight the spread of the virus is proving really powerful”, says Mr. Aikman. All the nations must adopt the measures taken by a country which has already ‘been there done that’ in this fight against coronavirus.
In the fight against Covid-19, China leveraged many digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing, 5G and blockchain.
Baidu research, a world leader in AI, open sourced Linear-Fold (it’s linear time AI algorithm) to epidemic prevention centers and research centers. The algorithm is important for gene testing and it reduces the time to predict and study the RNA secondary structure of novel coronavirus from 55 min to barely 27 min. It has reduced the time to just one-half of what was needed before. With the algorithm comes much improved efficiency than the traditional algorithm.
After the outbreak, Big Data played a noteworthy role in predicting and analyzing the flow of people and distribution of material in China. Qihoo 360, a world leading company of China, released “Big Data Migration Map” in February 2020. Users can access this through compuers or their mobile phones to check the migration trend in China from January 1, 2020 till date. This proved to be an important tool to understand and predict changes in the nation during this epidemic.
Laintei technology launched China’s first ever Blockchain epidemic monitoring platform, wherein the progress of COVID-19 in all provinces of China can be tracked in real time. It also registers relevant epidemic data on the platform which cannot be tampered with. This is to ensure that the epidemic information is open to all and transparent.
During this phase, China also witnessed the transition of “5G + health” from experimentation to implementation. China has implemented 5G + remote consultation system in many hosptals across the country. The first “remote consultation platform” of Huoshenshan hospital allows medical professionals in far away Beijing to work with medical staff of Huoshenshan hospital through remote video connections , thus improving the efficiency of diagnosis and treatment of patients.
These are the times when global infections are rising while China is limping back to normalcy due to all the efforts taken by the digital companies, the government and of course the citizens of China.