A doctor takes a swab from a woman to test for the Covid19 virus at a fever clinic in Yinan county in eastern China's Shandong province on Wednesday. (File photo: Chinatopix Via AP)
A doctor takes a swab from a woman to test for the Covid19 virus at a fever clinic in Yinan county in eastern China's Shandong province on Wednesday. (File photo: Chinatopix Via AP)

How China ‘beat’ Covid-19

By Gert Grobler Time of article published Aug 3, 2021

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China has made enormous strides in combating Covid-19 since its initial outbreak.

President Xi Jinping lauded the “strategic achievements in the battle against Covid-19 demonstrating the notable advantages of the Community Party of China leadership, in Beijing, as early as September last year.

Since my return to China in March this year, I have been astounded at the extent to which life in China has almost fully normalised.

Although the Chinese remain concerned about the spread of Covid-19, the success of China’s efforts to contain the virus is evident throughout the country. The masses are increasingly continuing with their lives, with shopping malls, restaurants, theatres and sporting events, all a hive of activity.

Masks, however, are still often worn and remain mandatory in public buildings and on public transport.

Furthermore, except for certain categories of foreigners who are permitted to travel to and from China, the country's borders remain closed which has had a negative impact on international tourism.

The border closure continues to provide for a two-week mandatory quarantine stay for all arrivals, Chinese or foreign, in a hotel designated by the government at the port of entry, a measure which remains in force.

Domestic tourism, however, is booming particularly in the current summer holiday season. Railway stations and airports are jam packed with millions of Chinese who are traversing the country.

It is predicted that several hundred million Chinese will travel domestically over the next four to six weeks. China will be hosting the Winter Olympics in February next year and preparations are under way to ensure a safe “Covid-free” and successful event.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19, it continues to rage through large parts of the world with continuing far-reaching and catastrophic consequences.

The question is often posed how China managed to “beat the virus” a mere few months after it surfaced in late 2019. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics as of July 31 this year, the number of people infected with Covid-19 in China amounts to 120 533 cumulative cases with 5 635 deaths.

It's a remarkable phenomenon considering the situation in the US with 35 million, India with 31 million and Brazil with 19 million Covid-19 cases.

What has been China's secret to success in effectively combating the spread of the virus?

First, China has an extremely efficient centralised health system. In fact, the health of its people is a matter of the highest priority for the Chinese government and to which substantial resources are directed.

Second, through targeted and comprehensive Covid-19 countermeasures swiftly implemented across China, the country laid the foundation for its eventual success in containing the virus.

The main focus of the control strategy was on the rapid identification of the source of the infection as well as breaking the chain of transmission.

Through measures, sometimes described by many foreigners as "draconian", the authorities initially sealed off the city of Wuhan (11 million) and Hubei province (58 million) from the rest of China.

Masks and physical distancing were mandatory from the outset, with door-to-door health checks and drones equipped with loudspeakers being deployed across the province and elsewhere to enforce the measures.

Thousands of health checkpoints were set up across China to regulate the movement of the population with a "zero tolerance" for transgressions.

In the meantime, millions of people were tested with great urgency. Those who showed symptoms or tested positive were mostly admitted to special Covid-19 hospitals, many of which were constructed within weeks, in order to prevent family members or friends from being infected.

Furthermore, the Chinese have put in place an extremely effective contact tracing mechanism that has been meticulously applied to prevent further infections.

Third, there is the human element that has played a significant, perhaps crucial, role in the effective containment of the virus.

Chinese people are infinitely more collective-minded as opposed to the individualistic “me first" attitude found in many parts of the West. It was therefore no great challenge to persuade the Chinese population to comply with the drastic health measures.

Based on its Confucian value system, Chinese view such compliance as a selfless and compassionate gesture towards fellow citizens which is, ultimately, in the interest of the greater good of the community and country.

The continued high level of preparedness regarding new infections in the country is noticeable. Since the further spread of the virus virtually subsided in the country in last year, infections continue to sporadically emerge in regions.

An example is a “new wave “ of infections, apparently fuelled by the Delta variant, in the Hunan and Fujian provinces as well in the cities of Nanjing and Chongqing over the past week or two.

In such instances the effective centralised health-care system kicks in with comprehensive and speedy countermeasures. Entire cities or towns are immediately sealed off, populations are tested and meticulous contact tracing introduced. In Nanjing, all its 9.2 million inhabitants were tested twice.

The vaccination roll-out programme, which is free, is gaining momentum. China has administered 1.5 billion doses and Its goal is to inoculate 80% of its population by year end. China is also strongly committed to assist other countries, especially developing countries in containing Covid-19.

China exported 255 million doses of the vaccine up to June this year, which represented 42% of its total vaccine output. Chinese vaccines have been delivered to more than 100 countries, 35 of which are in Africa.

The Chinese people, reflecting an unyielding will, are proud that the spread of Covid 19 has been brought under control through extremely effective measures, mutual trust and co-operation with the government. In fact, the Chinese overwhelmingly supported their government in combating the virus on the basis of "science and medical principles".

The economy, which was initially hard hit by the virus, is recovering at a remarkable pace , with a predicted growth rate of between 8 and 9% for the year. China is regarded as a significant positive force n the global economic recovery process.

China's Covid breakthrough represents further compelling evidence of the country's breathtaking economic, scientific and technological achievements over the past few decades, which included spectacular landings of spacecraft on the "far side" of the moon as well as on Mars recently.

*Gert Grobler, former ambassador and current Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Africa Studies at the Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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