Nations should join forces in fight against virus: Rand adviser

By Wu Lejun

People’s Daily app

Dr. Jennifer Bouey. (Photo: People’s Daily)

Washington (People’s Daily)  Senior policy researcher and Tang Chair in China Policy Studies at the RAND Corporation, Dr. Jennifer Bouey, said during an interview with People’s Daily that the coronavirus outbreak was a “battle between humans and viruses, not between people, not between countries.”  

The fight against coronavirus pandemics highlight the importance of prioritizing global health research and increase openness and cooperation among scientists worldwide.

As an epidemiologist focused on global health and health strategies, Bouey has taught at Georgetown University and participated in studies on global health security issues in the US and China.

Since the SARS outbreak, China’s response capabilities during a pandemic and its health management system have improved significantly. The country has invested in a nationwide network consisting of disease control centers at every level, Bouey noted.

The centers are connected by a real-time, web-based system for emerging public health events.

“The coronavirus is the most serious test for China’s strengthened epidemic surveillance and response systems since new measures were implemented after the SARS outbreak,” Bouey said.  

Following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, China and WHO officials began communicating with each other to share the disease’s genetic sequence in efforts to prevent and control the epidemic.  

Bouey said that because Chinese scientists isolated the coronavirus they could conduct genomic sequencing experiments an share their findings with the world in such a short period. Their efforts helped identify the virus and enabled China and other countries to develop early detection testing kits.

“This was a very important step in controlling the outbreak, the Chinese scientists in this regard are doing very well,” Bouey said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) while stressing that travel and trade restrictions would be unnecessary. Since then, a few countries have implemented so-called “travel bans,” barring Chinese from entering their countries.  

Bouey said travel bans are an overreaction based on multiple factors, would have huge social and economic impacts, and would not be an effective response to the outbreak.

“A travel ban does not protect a country from the virus. It gives the illusion that it can be contained in China, which it isn’t,” she explained.

As for the growing discrimination against Chinese due to coronavirus in other countries and regions, Bouey said this phenomenon should be condemned.

As Bouey explained, epidemic disease outbreaks are often accompanied by rumors and discrimination and lack a scientific basis, stigma, and prejudice. Also, punitive remarks preclude a sense of goodwill and more than likely undermine  transparency, making the disease harder to combat.

“The coronavirus is a threat to all human beings, not to a particular country or nation, and international cooperation is needed to deal with it,” Bouey elaborated.

History has revealed that China and the US maintained strong communication and cooperation in the fight against SARS, H5N1, H1N1, H7N9, influenza, and Ebola, and have made great contributions to the progress of human health, said Bouey.

Looking forward, Bouey said that in a globalized environment, the distance between countries is very small. The unfolding battle against this new pandemic, meanwhile, highlights the importance of transparency and open collaboration among scientists globally.

“It is a reminder that all nations should prioritize, and protect global health research, capacity building and cooperation,” she said.