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Embracing scientific prevention, treatment throughout epidemic

By Wang Ting | People's Daily Online | Updated: 2020-03-20 09:50

Employees pack medicines at a production facility in Meishan, Sichuan province, on Feb 10. [Photo by Zhang Zhongping/For China Daily]

President Xi Jinping stressed science and technology are the most powerful weapons in humanity's battle against disease, and mankind cannot defeat a major disaster or epidemic without scientific development and technological innovation. Winning the people's war against the epidemic still requires hard work, Xi said, adding there should be more efforts to seek solutions through science.

At the moment, it will still take a Herculean effort to win the war against the disease. It is more imperative now than ever to find scientific solutions and methods.

Since the outbreak began, Chinese scientists have adamantly carried out the duties bestowed on them by President Xi Jinping and the central authorities. And through their valiant efforts, sacrifice and rigorous professionalism, they have provided strong scientific and technological support for tackling the outbreak.

To overcome the epidemic, we must seek solutions and measures while upholding the scientific spirit, and offer professional advice rooted in scientific research and collaboration of the scientific community.

The scientific spirit is about radiating science to the public through words and actions, allowing the people to nurture their mind with scientific facts and internalize scientific methods into their daily lives. In the face of a sudden outbreak, we need the scientific community to take up the mantle of disseminating and popularizing scientific information, and help the public understand the epidemic scientifically and rationally.

The China Association for Science and Technology, the largest scientific community, has swiftly answered the call of duty. CAST has encouraged scientific research and provided many public services, especially in regards to disease prevention and mitigating public fear.

CAST has mobilized national scientific agencies and regional associations to launch several emergency science communication initiatives. We also utilized online platforms, such as China Science Communication and China Digital Science and Technology Museum, to spread scientific facts, debunk rumors and misinformation, and provide psychological counseling.

The total number of views on CAST's platforms has surpassed 5.5 billion, with many prominent scientists including Zhong Nanshan, Li Lanjuan and Zhang Wenhong using the platform to share their latest thoughts and scientific analysis on the situation. This allowed the truth to outrun the lies, effectively raising social awareness on the prevention and control of the epidemic.

Scientific prevention and treatment efforts should be built on the foundation of science, with faith and respect for science and its developmental patterns. Foreign scientists have praised China's epidemic control measures as extremely professional; this is because we have embraced science every step of the way.

Arming the public's consciousness with science is crucial for winning the battle against the disease. As a result, we have promoted scientific spirit, ideas and methods to the public, and guided them to view the condition scientifically and rationally, thus allowing them to overcome fear and bolster their confidence.

We have also offered a lot of scientific and practical advice, such as washing hands, opening windows and wearing masks, to raise public awareness on how to protect themselves. Expanding scientific communication to reach multiple social dimensions, from residential communities to rural villages to cyberspace, is vital for improving scientific literacy and raising the public's overall preventive capabilities. When people can examine and analyze issues scientifically, it will enhance their immunity against false information and allow them to make sound judgments.

The virus knows no borders, and all nations should join hands in tackling it together. The COVID-19 epidemic is a new challenge that has an unknown origin and is continuously evolving, and only science can unveil its secrets.

Chinese scientists have swiftly identified the virus causing the illness and published its genetic sequence and other information, including the potential host receptors and clinical records on its primary pathogenesis. These efforts have laid the groundwork for tracking the virus and facilitating drug development on a global scale.

As the virus is spreading across borders, the scientific communities should enhance international dialogue and cooperation, share experimental data, and produce high-quality scientific findings and practical advice to end its global rampage. This will showcase the value of science and technology and the power of unity when building a community of shared future for humankind.

Now, there is still a massive demand for science communication since the nation has wrestled the disease under control and is preparing for socioeconomic development as production, work and other daily activities resume across the country.

This will require the scientific community to collaborate with the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism and authoritative media to get facts to the public, help them understand the situation scientifically, and facilitate more dialogues between scientists and the public. This will help clarify many issues and improve the efficiency of response measures.

More effort should be put into creating accurate, timely, effective and high-quality science communication products that can teach the public about scientific prevention and control, economic development and psychological counseling.

In the long run, we should optimize science communication mechanisms during national emergencies, so we can let scientific spirit and methods take root in the people.

The author is general director of the China Research Institute for Science Popularization (CRISP) and vice-chairman of the China Science Writers Association (CSWA). The article is translated from People's Daily by Zhang Zhihao. 

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