By: Priyanka Pandit Source: China Daily Published: 2020-02-26
The Chinese economy has been severely hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak. And although the Chinese government has taken comprehensive measures to treat the virus-infected patients and contain the epidemic, the spread of the coronavirus to other countries seems to have created a global panic. Adding to this is the frustration caused by the “no known cure” for the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 2,600 lives in China.
The World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern” on Jan 31, but it did so not because it was dissatisfied with the Chinese government’s measures to control the epidemic but to help poorer countries to deal with the coronavirus. The declaration will strengthen WHO’s disease surveillance on countries with relatively weak healthcare systems, prepare them to deal with the virus, and create awareness to contain the epidemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has put huge pressure on Beijing, especially because it has occurred at a time when the China is close to achieving the goals set in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). While the Chinese people pin their hopes on the government containing the epidemic, the international community is closely watching China’s response to the outbreak. All these have made the task of controlling the outbreak even more difficult for the Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government has responded decisively to the outbreak, which marks a departure from its public health policy during the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2002-03. The government has also acted swiftly to close all sea food and live animal markets in the country along with imposing travel restrictions on people within China.
The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has taken note of the Chinese leadership’s commitment to investigate and contain the outbreak. It has praised the government for communicating daily updates about the epidemic to WHO and for adopting a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach to prevent the further spread of the virus.
But given the uncertainty over the virus’s transmission, stepping up international collaboration is the need of the hour. Though the novel coronavirus was detected in China, it cannot be argued that the onus of finding medical solutions and preventing its spread lies with Beijing alone. It’s time the international community supported the countless Chinese medical personnel who have put their own safety in risk to work round the clock to treat the virus-infected patients.
An outbreak of such a magnitude often acts as a litmus test for humanity and compassion. Even the most powerful country becomes vulnerable and requires the support and cooperation of the other countries to contain such an outbreak. As such, countries with advanced public healthcare systems should actively chart out strategies of cooperation with WHO and China to contain the epidemic and find a vaccine for COVID-19.
For instance, such countries could send medical supplies to China to assist the Chinese government’s virus control efforts, generate global awareness about the symptoms of the virus, conduct joint research to find a cure for the virus, and prevent the spread of anti-China sentiments abroad.
With the rising cases in South Korea and Japan, it’s clear that no country alone can control an epidemic like COVID-19. Complicating the situation further is the multiple side effects of the virus. Apart from its potentially deadly pathogenic character, the virus leads to social exclusion and exacerbates the already existing differences on biomedical approaches to epidemic control and global health standards. So collective efforts are needed to end the differences in the battle against COVID-19, control its spread and find a cure for it.
The author is a visiting fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.