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