China accused the US of contributing to public hysteria over the deadly novel coronavirus as the struggle to contain the illness adds further strain to diplomatic relations. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the coronavirus could “help” to bring jobs to the US, says businesses should reconsider their supply chains. Photo: Xinhua/Xiong Qi/IANS
China accused the US of contributing to public hysteria over the deadly novel coronavirus as the struggle to contain the illness adds further strain to diplomatic relations. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the coronavirus could “help” to bring jobs to the US, says businesses should reconsider their supply chains. Photo: Xinhua/Xiong Qi/IANS

Coronavirus: It's a health issue, not a political game

By Xu Qinduo Time of article published Feb 6, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL – While the world is racing against time to save lives from the coronavirus outbreak, there have been unexpected responses.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the virus could “help” to bring jobs to the US. He suggested that American businesses should reconsider their supply chains.

For sure, business will be affected, both Chinese and foreign. But a temporary outbreak is unlikely to play a big part in long-term business plans. There are many factors to consider in running a business. Any decision to retain or relocate businesses must only be market-and-profit driven, free from politicisation.

Ross’ thinking of benefiting from a Chinese crisis has been roundly criticised by health experts. Georges C Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said: “American companies would have more reason to be concerned about gun violence or measles outbreaks stateside in terms of actual risk to their health than coronavirus.”

Secretary Ross, who once suggested federal workers turning to food banks during US government shutdown should consider borrowing from banks to pay their bills, has crossed the line and there are others also attempting to politicise this public health crisis.

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, penned a piece claiming: “Coronavirus spreads, and the world pays for China’s dictatorship.”

That’s gone too far!

It would be a heated debate if you explore the strength or weakness of different political models. Yet, there’s one facet that speaks loudest about a system: its track record, such as poverty alleviation, life expectancy, and large-scale travel abroad and back home.

Looking at only the current battle against the virus, we have seen a much faster and better co-ordinated response compared to the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic 17 years ago, on national, provincial and grassroot levels. The construction of two specialised hospitals is almost half complete after just four days of work. 

Cities in Hubei Province remain on lockdown but supplies for everyday life is basically guaranteed. Other provinces have dispatched a strong-contingent of 6 000 doctors and nurses. There are daily briefings of precise figures for every province and even cities. Officials are being held accountable for negligence of duties with a few already removed from office.

Nationwide, the government has extended the Spring Festival vacation and prolonged home stay for workers and students. With strict quarantine efforts still in place, some leading medical experts, who earlier sharply criticised inefficient responses, are now predicting a tipping point possibly in the first half of February.

We are seeing a nationwide mobilisation of resources.

Blaming the outbreak on politics is a far-fetched idea. It could mislead you to believe there are no diseases, no disasters, no Hurricane Katrina, under a US-style political system, let alone crimes, gun violence and policy catastrophes.

Fighting the new virus is a matter of life and death for all of us and there shouldn’t be room for politics or economic benefits.

Xu Qinduo is a current affairs commentator with China Plus. The article reflects the author's own views.

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