“If I get COVID, I’m going to China”

But there are many lessons to be learned from how Beijing has responded to the disease, according to the top World Health Organization epidemiologist working on the coronavirus response there. He says that is especially the case for the United States because much of that response was learned from American public health officials.

“If I get COVID, I’m going to China,” said Bruce Aylward, MD, a Canadian epidemiologist who led the WHO team on the ground in February, when the coronavirus was exploding in China. “They know how to keep people alive.”…

Aylward said that although respiratory illnesses like the common flu usually spread too quickly to track, the Chinese made a bold decision: “We gotta find every case, super-fast.” Despite the difficulty of doing so with a fast-moving virus that seems to spread easily and linger on surfaces, they implemented a contact tracing system that identified potentially ill people.

The severely ill were then isolated for treatment, while others were quarantined and monitored. “Everybody became a screener,” Aylward said, and use of technology was also “turbocharged.” This allowed the Chinese to not “waste” their tests but to use them on people who were genuinely ill, thus allowing them to uncover — and cut off — transmission chains.