China-based medical team helps African countries fight COVID-19

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by Professor Yimin Zhu

Editor’s note: The China Anti-Covid-19 Medical Expert Team to Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea is organized by the people’s government of Hunan Province and consisted of 12 experts with experience in Covid-19 treatment, prevention and control, including respiratory treatment, nosocomial infection, infectious disease, critical care, epidemiology and nursing expertise.

The global transmission and spread of COVID-19, a pandemic unseen in more than a century, poses enormous threats and challenges to the public health, health and safety of all the people across the world. In the face of COVID-19, China has summarized the anti-pandemic experience and plans with its own characteristics. Within three months, the pandemic was basically brought under control, ensuring the health and safety of 1.4 billion Chinese.

On May 11th, the Anti-COVID-19 Medical Expert Team to Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea embarked on a mission to help Africa with the pandemic.  I led a team comprised of eleven other outstanding specialists from Hunan Province. The team had expertise in fields of respiratory medicine, critical care medicine, infectious disease, laboratory testing, and traditional Chinese medicine. In addition to our expertise, we also brought donated medical supplies from Changsha for Africa to help with the anti-COVID effort.

As an expert in emergency medicine for more than 30 years, I led the team to successfully treat the world’s first case of a child infected by H5N1 avian influenza in 2005. The Director of the Regional Office for the Western Pacific of the World Health Organization made a special trip to Hunan to learn from our treatment experience and effectively disseminated and promoted it. Over the past 15 years, I have led a team that has helped cultivate medical personnel from developing countries, especially African medical talents, with professional technical training and guidance. Every year, this team receives more than 200 African medical workers who come to Hunan for study, professional development in particular, serving the purposes of improving their professional knowledge and practical ability.

During our one-month trip to Africa, we exchanged views with governments, and policy and technical committees of the joint prevention and control systems of both Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. We also shared China’s measures of prevention and control and treatment plans.  Recommendations on COVID-19 Prevention and Control was specifically written for them and provided both online and offline training for nearly 1,000 medical workers. All these efforts are applauded widely by the governments and peoples of the two countries. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that the China’s medical expert team offered significant assistance to Zimbabwe’s against the pandemic. Equatorial Guinea’s Prime Minister Francisco Pascual Obama Asue stated that the arrival of the Chinese medical expert team brought the light of hope to Equatorial Guinea.

Over the past month in both countries, we have felt the simplicity, kindness, diligence and wisdom of their peoples, and the responsibility and professionalism of their medical staff.  Such professionalism and dedication really moved me. Compared with Chinese people, the peoples in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe have a more peaceful mind in the face of the pandemic. Admittedly, it is essential for the public to have a good attitude and keep optimistic when the pandemic comes. That is because people can improve their immunity to viruses.

The current pandemic situation in Africa is still challenging. Basic protective materials such as masks, alcohol, disinfectants, and liquid soap are scarce, let alone NAT reagents and medical equipment for clinical treatment such as ventilators, monitors, and medicines. Most people have begun to realize the dangers of the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, we have seen an increasing number of people wearing masks, and more prevention measures adopted by the governmental departments and public institutions including taking body temperature and spraying hand disinfectant. The governments have implemented measures of more strict controls at the borders and ports, medical observation of the suspected cases in quarantine zones, and follow-up and tracing the visitors who have returned to the community.

Although we have returned to China, it does not mean that our medical assistance to Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe has come to an end. Personally, for me, it is far from over. Since I have been there and personally experienced, felt, and investigated there, when coming back to China, I will get down to more detailed research work on the prevention and control of the pandemic in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea.  I will employ the relevant experience in Hunan to keep constant contact with the professionals for the pandemic control of these two countries, in accordance with the slogan we have already born in mind three months ago, “We will never retreat until we prevail over the pandemic”.

There is no one-time success. But in my eyes, there is always a rainbow after every rainstorm. Let’s work with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea to embrace the dawn of the anti-pandemic victory in Africa.

Professor Yimin Zhu, is the team leader of China’s Anti-COVID-19 Medical Expert Team to Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea, and the deputy director-general of Health Commission of Hunan Province

 

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