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Friday, April 03, 2020, 12:58
How China has largely contained the outbreak
By Wali Zahid
Friday, April 03, 2020, 12:58 By Wali Zahid

China's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak has been remarkable at several levels. First, the decisive leadership of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese officials' years of experience in managing local and national affairs have helped the country to largely contain the spread of the virus in the country.

The authorities didn't waste any time before locking down Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in China, and its parent province of Hubei as soon as they realized the threat the virus posed to human health. In fact, the CPC-led leadership needed less time than the so-called democratic countries to build societal consensus to take consequential decisions.

No panic buying reported in China

Second, the Chinese people did not react to the quarantine and lockdown measures with resistance or panic. They stayed home and put on face masks when they went outside to prevent the spread of the virus, and thus helping flatten the curve of infections relatively early. Also, people in China did not indulge in panic buying of daily necessities including face masks, paper towels and water, unlike what we have seen in the United States and many other countries in recent weeks.

Third, as the "factory of the world", China produced enough masks, sanitizers, and medical supplies to meet the demand in Wuhan and other cities. Also, many Chinese working, studying or living overseas bought masks from the local markets and sent them to China to meet the local needs.

Fourth, using technology, China has been able to monitor and track the infected individuals. It's the same technology the Republic of Korea and Singapore used to track and isolate the infected people.

Rapid and comprehensive response to rising cases

Fifth, China was able to build two hospitals in Wuhan in less than two weeks to admit novel coronavirus patients. Chinese doctors and other medical staff worked extra hours to treat the patients, with some of them even losing their lives. The survivors will forever be indebted to these brave soldiers. And as opposed to other countries such as the US and European states, availability of enough reagent test kits was not an issue in China.

Sixth, according to China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention data on confirmed cases and deaths, China was able to control the increase of new cases and the resulting deaths. In comparison, the death tolls are still rising rapidly in some developed countries.

Seventh, China's CDC started updating the figures for recovered patients from Feb 3 and, as a result, the daily recovery count shifted the global outlook from confirmed cases and deaths to hope and optimism.

Eighth, in the Chinese cities not severely affected by the virus, economic activities remained more or less operational, and the supply of essential products such as food was not affected. Municipal services, too, remained functional.

And ninth, China kept fighting fake news and Western propaganda. In a tweet on Jan 24, US President Donald Trump praised President Xi Jinping for taking strong measures to contain the virus. But when the virus hit other countries, the US in particular, the US leader and other senior US officials started criticizing China and using racist terms to describe the virus. China, in concert with the World Health Organization, warded off such attacks with resilience.

By early March, it was clear that the new cases' curve had flattened out in China, and Chinese businesses could resume normal operations. Forty-two Apple stores were reopened in China on March 13 while those in other countries, including the US, were being shut down. In the second fortnight of March, China was the only country where Apple stores were open.

Tell-tale signs of China returning to normal

In the middle of last week, China lifted the lockdown on Hubei, with the exception of Wuhan. And the strict restrictions on Wuhan are likely to be withdrawn on April 8.

By the end of February, new epicenters of the novel coronavirus started emerging, shifting from Iran and the ROK to European countries-specially Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Now the US has the highest number of confirmed cases.

By April 2, Italy's death toll had exceeded that of China, while new local cases had declined drastically in China, including Wuhan.

Now the death toll in Italy is almost four times that of China, and the US has more than 200,000 confirmed cases.

And it is to help the rest of the world to effectively fight the virus that China is sharing its experience of how it managed to largely contain the outbreak. China has also sent medical teams and supplies to many countries including Iran, Italy, France, the UK, and Pakistan.

US decision to work with China good for the world

President Xi has extended a helping hand to all world leaders including the US president. But it was not until March 28 when the confirmed cases in the US surpassed that in China that Trump tweeted about working closely with China to fight the pandemic, which nevertheless bodes well for both countries as well as the rest of the world.

With the dysfunctional leadership in many countries, President Xi has emerged as a capable leader who can help the world overcome the health crisis. As Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters on March 16, "the only country that can help us is China. For the rest of them (EU leaders), thanks for nothing".

The author is a China watcher, an award-winning journalist and former editor of Lahore-based The News. 

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.


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