By: Ding Gang Source: Global Times Published: 2020-04-15
The global coronavirus pandemic has revealed just how inadequately the world is prepared for outbreaks of infectious diseases. Even many developed countries have been caught under-prepared even though they lead the world in medicine, and have well-established public health and epidemic prevention systems. The crucial cause is a lack of knowledge of what it takes to foresee, prepare and provide treatment during an epidemic.
Humanity's lack of understanding of viruses is directly related to how the public health systems develop. It is humanity's continuous struggles with infectious diseases that have propelled advancements in medicine, strengthened our ability to prevent epidemics, and lead to constant improvements in public health systems.
However, the coronavirus pandemic reminds us progress still lags far behind the speed of virus evolution and spread. Various deficiencies exist in human society's responses to viruses, both technically and institutionally.
All countries are likely to summarize their experience and draw lessons from the pandemic, so they can better respond to large-scale infectious diseases in the future. The key is to fully raise awareness of people's basic knowledge of such viruses.
The public health crisis response system not only concerns disease treatment, but our ability to implement extensive mobilization and organization at all levels of society. The flexibility and effectiveness of the system depends on disseminating basic knowledge of viruses. Problems that have occurred in various countries' epidemic prevention are ultimately related to the education and lack of basic knowledge of viruses.
After the coronavirus pandemic, education must be the top priority for improving the entire prevention and control system. Relevant knowledge should be included in the curriculum of primary and middle schools. This pandemic should be fully presented in textbooks as a historical event and a public health crisis.
Meanwhile, basic education about the virus needs to be made available to all government employees at various administrative and managerial levels. Prevention of infectious diseases should become important criteria for evaluating the performance of governments. Relevant education is a must-learn course in governing and business administration.
A system, no matter how perfect it may be, requires people to execute it. Only when they acquire basic knowledge can they make comprehensive decisions and reduce the possibility of negligence when similar crises arise. Even as they become more aware of their personal safety, managerial and grass-root level staff will have a heightened awareness of any emerging crisis, which will prompt them to make timely responses and ensure reporting procedures are followed smoothly.
When ordinary people have knowledge of the virus outbreak, they can make timely and appropriate judgments on information and will request relevant departments to provide information. The authorities can also coordinate all parties to respond to the crisis more effectively.
A combination of raising people's awareness of viruses and the development of medicine and vaccines will boost humanity's ability to handle public health crises. After all, humans will always have to co-exist with viruses. The more we understand this adversary from nature, the better we can prepare to combat it.
The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.