May 9, 2020 / 7:15 AM / 21 days ago

China to reform disease prevention system

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks walk at a main shopping area, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Shanghai, China May 6, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will reform its disease prevention and control system to address weaknesses exposed by the coronavirus outbreak, a senior health official said on Saturday.

China has been criticised domestically and abroad as being initially slow to react to the epidemic, which first broke out on a large scale in Wuhan. The virus has since spread across the world, infecting almost 4 million people and killing almost a quarter-million from the COVID-19 disease it causes.

“This coronavirus epidemic is a big test of our country’s governance and governing ability, and it exposed the weak links in how we address major epidemic and public health systems,” Li Bin, vice minister of the China National Health Commission, told reporters.

The commission intends to build a “centralised and efficient” chain of command and reform, and modernise the disease prevention and control system, he said.

The commission also aims to make better use of big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to better analyse the disease, trace the virus and distribute resources.

He said the commission plans to step up research on core technology, improve medical insurance and better ensure the availability of emergency materials.

China has not seen any new deaths from coronavirus for 24 days.

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by William Mallard

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