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Mutual aid to hinder contagion

Xu Wei and Mao Weihua
Updated: Sep 21,2016 8:19 AM     China Daily

China is looking to step up cooperation with Eurasian countries in border health quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of endemic diseases just as the Belt and Road Initiative is set to bring about more frequent international exchanges.

Establishing a China-Eurasia health quarantine cooperation mechanism would help to prevent the spread of endemic diseases such as the Zika virus and Middle East respiratory syndrome, according to Zhang Jiwen, head of the Department of Supervision on Health Quarantine. The department is part of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

He made the remarks at an international forum on entry-exit health quarantine at the Fifth China-Eurasian Expo, which opened on Sept 20. The Expo, to be held until Sept 25 in Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, has attracted representatives from 57 countries and six international organizations.

Zhang said the Belt and Road Initiative will bring more frequent international exchanges in cargo and personnel as cross-border trade increases.

“The public health risks in the border areas will also increase as a result,” he said.

Zhang noted that there are 4.4 billion people in Eurasia, and public health conditions and endemic disease transmission rates vary greatly among countries.

“HIV, malaria, dengue in the Greater Mekong region; MERS and echinococcosis in Central Asia; and poliomyelitis and tuberculosis in West Asia and Africa, have all posed threats to Eurasian countries,” he said.

Zhang said the authority has proposed a research effort leading to creation of a cooperative health quarantine mechanism for countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative in three to five years.

It also hopes to establish a cooperative network for port quarantine among those countries in five to 10 years, he said.

“The network will enable a more sound health quarantine system and cooperation scheme among those countries,” he said.

The spread of the Zika virus demonstrates the importance of enhanced surveillance globally, said Chin Kei Lee, medical officer for emerging infectious diseases with the World Health Organization’s China Office. Chin spoke on the sidelines of the forum.

“Eventually there will always be a risk for disease to be transmitted to any country, including China. For global problems, there is a need for global solutions,” he said.

“Enhanced surveillance ... of the situation of different countries will be very useful for countries including China to see where the risks are and how to control the risks,” he said.

He said that collective and coordinated actions between countries can make a difference in the prevention of endemic diseases.

China has intercepted 11 of 22 imported cases of Zika virus through border health inspection procedures, according to the AQSIQ.