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'Telling the truth is key to good public health communication'



Professor Zhang Wenhong, a Shanghai-based infectious disease specialist, has become a household name since the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Known for his blunt and often humorous tips on COVID-19 prevention and control, Zhang's "golden remarks" have offered some comfort to heavy realities we all have to deal with during a pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with CGTN's Tian Wei, Prof. Zhang was coy about becoming a celebrity with his unconventional approach to fighting COVID-19, but he was happy with the fact that the Chinese people agree with his ways.

"What is very important, I think is just to tell the citizens the truth," said Zhang. "This is the key to good public health communication."

As the director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Fudan-Huashan Hospital, Prof. Zhang headed Shanghai's team of experts in treating COVID-19 patients. He said that China has already entered a new normal state. "It's not normal," he stressed, "it's just new normal."

As a sign of having conquered the first and the toughest phase of containing COVID-19, China lifted the months-long lockdown in Wuhan on April 8.

Zhang noted that the measures need to be adaptive. China has taken the control measures "a level down" as the number of new cases have been low, but emergency measures will be triggered if the situation changes.

While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been under control in China, many other countries are still facing worsening situations. On May 22, Brazil overtook Russia as the country with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases, behind the United States.

Agreed that the trends are indeed very worrying, Prof. Zhang pointed out that in some parts of the world, people simply cannot afford lockdown because they need to go to work to make a living.

His suggestions to these countries include focusing on protecting the vulnerable population, and allowing young people and people with stronger immunity to go to work.

He stressed the importance of nutrition in building up immunity against the virus, which he has been promoting for long in China, once advising students flying back to China from overseas amid COVID-19 to eat steak before their trips.

While the encouraging news of a Chinese vaccine showing promising results came out on May 22, Zhang cautioned that before a vaccine could be made available to the masses, we need to learn to live with the virus and nip it in the bud whenever occurrences of transmission take place.

Zhang said that this is China's version of herd immunity, by mobilizing every part of the society in preventing and controlling the transmission of the virus.

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international debate/in-depth interview program facilitated by host Tian Wei. People in the know, be they global leaders or emerging change-makers, all provide their insights on this unique global platform.


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