Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. File picture: Naohiko Hatta/Pool Photo via AP
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. File picture: Naohiko Hatta/Pool Photo via AP

Covid-19: Follow the science, and not the politics

By Supplied Time of article published Jun 13, 2020

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CHINA’S white paper outlining the  country’s struggles in fighting Covid- 19 and international co-operation  efforts highlight the critical importance  of global solidarity and following  the science.

Titled “Fighting Covid-19: China  in Action”, the report affirms Chinese  President Xi Jinping’s contention that  public health crises pose a common  challenge for humanity and the most  powerful weapon to stem such crises  is co-operation and solidarity.

China has, for now, been able to  cut all channels for the novel coronavirus’  transmission, while it is wreaking  havoc around the world.  This week, there were more than  7.15 million cases around the world,  with more than 408 000 deaths. 

The US, which is reopening come  hell or high water, reached the 2 million  mark, with an estimated a range  of about 147 000 to 284 000 deaths  projected by October; the outbreak is  surging in Latin America and the Caribbean,  which have surpassed 70 000  deaths; India’s richest city, Mumbai  has reported 50 000 cases - a fifth of the  country’s total; Russia has surpassed  the half-million mark; and South  Africa reached over 55 400 cases with  31 505 recoveries and 1 210 deaths.

Containing the spread has come at  great cost to all countries, but without  lockdowns – and significant sacrifice  – beating Covid will not be possible.

China’s white paper details how it  had sent 29 medical expert teams to  27 countries and offered assistance to  150 countries and four international  organisations as of May 31. Its medical  teams in 56 countries helped support  local systems and provided counselling  and health information. So far, these  teams have offered 400 online and  offline training sessions.

How did it do this? By responding  swiftly and effectively, in unison as a  country, while working with the world.

All life is precious: China has done  all it can to protect the lives and health  of its people, despite the temporary  government shutdown and short-term  economic cost.  It has also placed lives ahead of  economic growth, by saving lives at  all cost, increasing the cure rate and  lowering the fatality rate.

China could not have done this  alone: It’s had reciprocal support from  the leaders of more than170 countries,  heads of 50 international and regional  organisations, and over 300 political  parties.

The BRICs New Development and  Asian Infrastructure Investment banks  provided emergency loans worth 7  billion RMB (R16.44bn) and 2485 RMB
(R5.84bn), while the Asia Development  Bank provided loans for the building  of China’s public health emergency  management system.

The hard truth is the US response  to Covid-19 has been ineffective and  too late: We see it in the out-of-hand  and tragic death toll, which has surpassed
340 per million residents, just  more than 100 times that seen in  China.  Had that country acted promptly  and more effectively, a great many  deaths would have been prevented.

Those who acted decisively, in unison  with others, saved lives, reopened their  economies and adjusted to the “new  normal”.

Germany, Austria and Greece suffered  significantly lower mortality  rates.  Reuters reports that Australia,  Hong Kong, Mongolia, New Zealand,  Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and  Thailand were all able to keep their  fatalities below seven deaths per million  residents, while Vietnam, with a  population of 96 million, has suffered  no reported deaths at all. 

What’s the  difference? Identifying the threat and  taking swift action.

The first suspected case of the  novel coronavirus emerged early in  December: By the 31st, officials notified  the World Health Organization  and by January 12, Chinese scientists  had shared its genetic sequence with  the world so that all countries could  begin to work on a vaccine. 

China  orchestrated a massive lockdown in  Wuhan, where the outbreak emerged,  ramped up testing and contract tracing,  built temporary medical facilities,
and deployed almost 45 000 doctors  and nurses to Wuhan.

Countries that were successful  employed similar measures, launching  aggressive social distancing, test and  trace and mask-wearing campaigns.  Those that weren’t successful, did  not. Now the US has the most deaths  of any country in the world, followed  by Brazil, Russia and Sweden.

Covid is a human disaster on an  unprecedented scale, where lives have  had to be chosen over livelihoods.

South Africa, which is expecting to  see the peak in August and September,  is easing restrictions to try restart the  economy. Children must return to  school and parents get back to work.  But to do that, we should follow  the science, not the politics.

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