By Zhou Pingjian
China is currently fighting an all-out people’s war against the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) outbreak. The virus is unprecedented, so are the measures China has taken.
The safety and health of the people always comes first, and thus the prevention and control of the outbreak is the country’s top priority for now. The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has convened two meetings for redeployment and remobilization on January 25 and February 3 respectively. President Xi Jinping has made it very clear that the CPC Central Committee always places people’s life, security and health above anything else. The Central Leading Group on responding to the outbreak has convened five meetings on epidemic control efforts. The group has traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the NCP outbreak, to direct the efforts on the ground. The State Council’s inter-agency prevention and control task force has redoubled its efforts to make sure that all urgent issues are resolved in a most timely manner.
On February 8, the 1,500-bed Leishenshan Hospital was put into use. Earlier, the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital went into full operation on February 3. Both of the makeshift hospitals were built in less than 10 days. More than 11,000 doctors and nurses across the country arrived in Wuhan within a few days and are now fighting on the epicenter of the epidemic day and night. We are racing against time to save lives.
Our efforts are producing results. Since February 1, cured NCP cases began to outnumber deaths. As of 24:00 p.m. February 8, a total of 2,649 persons had been discharged from hospital after recovery, unfortunately 811 persons had died of the disease. Since February 3, newly reported confirmed cases are declining day-by-day outside Hubei, the province with Wuhan as its capital, from 890 cases that day to 731 cases (February 4), 707 cases (February 5), 696 cases (February 6), 558 cases (February 7), 509 cases (February 8).
The figures above are important signs that the epidemic is preventable, controllable and curable.
As President Xi assures the world, being good at mobilizing resources and equipped with rich experience in handling public health emergencies, China has the confidence and capability to win the battle. The robust measures are taken not only for the health of China’s own people but also as a great contribution to global public safety.
Acting with openness, transparency and a high sense of responsibility, the Chinese government has been sharing information in a timely manner, enhancing international cooperation, putting in place a nation-wide scheme, pooling national resources and taking the most strict and thorough measures to fight the outbreak. The National Health Commission and the Wuhan health authorities hold daily briefings to keep the public updated. China’s openness, transparency and high sense of responsibility, and its decisive and effective measures have been recognized by the international community. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), affirms on many occasions that China has in fact taken more measures to contain the outbreak that it is required to do in case of an emergency, and China is setting a new standard for outbreak response for other countries.
Regrettably, we have noted some rumors and lies on the NCP epidemic. Virus is horrible. What’s more horrible is rumors and panic. As WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros has repeatedly called on people not to believe in rumors or spread them, “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.” In some countries including Nigeria, relevant departments have been stepping up efforts to bring to justice those creating and spreading rumors about the epidemic. On February 1, five Abuja residents who had faked coronavirus infection were swiftly arrested by the FCT police for their gratuitous prank .
Every life is precious. One NCP case is too many. However, we still need to put things in perspective and have a objective and accurate analysis of the situation. All the responses to the epidemic should be based on science instead of fear.
I wish to stress that, as of February 8, the mortality rate of the NCP is 2.18% (811 deaths out of 37198 confirmed cases), and the mortality rate in Chinese provinces and cities other than Wuhan is merely 0.91% (203 deaths out of 22210 confirmed cases), even lower than that of ordinary pneumonia. The mortality rate outside Hubei is 0.31% (31 deaths out of 10098 confirmed cases). In contrast, the H1N1 flu of 2009 in the US had a mortality rate of 17.4%, the mortality rate of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) of 2012 was 34.4% and Ebola of 2014 in West Africa 40.4%. In fact, according to a recent CDC report, the US flu from 2019 to 2020 has caused 19 million infection cases and at least 10,000 deaths. There are 200 or so NCP cases of infections worldwide, far less than 1% of the case count in China, while the H1N1 outbreak in the US spread to 214 regions and countries.
It is understandable that some countries have taken necessary and appropriate prevention measures. But we disapprove of measures out of proportion. As WHO insists, there is no pandemic yet and there is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. WHO doesn’t recommend and actually oppose limiting trade and movement.
After the epidemic outbreak, the Chinese government attaches high importance to the life and health of all people in China, Chinese and foreign nationals alike. We have taken the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures against the NCP, many of which have far exceeded what WHO and International Health Regulations required. Currently the security, health and living standards of foreign nationals in China is guaranteed. We hope all countries can assess the epidemic situation and China’s efforts in a calm, objective and rational manner and do not overreact.
Foreign nationals are safe in China. According to the professional evaluation of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros, the safest way for foreign nationals in Wuhan is to stay put and ensure effective self-protection. He has cautioned against hasty movement as it will add more uncertainties. Now confirmed cases have been detected among some foreign evacuees, which increase the risk of further spread. This is what has happened. We still suggest that countries to follow WHO recommendations and educate their nationals to ensure sound protection in accordance with local health regulations. The majority of the countries including Nigeria understand the opinion of the Chinese government. They have full confidence in and support China’s control efforts.
February 10 this year marks the 49th anniversary of China-Nigeria diplomatic relations. Since 1971, the all-dimensional, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation has been a pacesetter in China-Africa cooperation. Particularly in recent years, under the strategic guidance and personal attention of President Xi and President Buhari, the brotherly relationship between China and Nigeria has reached new heights unmatched in history, bringing tangible benefits to our two countries and peoples. China always appreciates Nigeria’s invaluable support wherever China’s interest is concerned.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. Recently, the Embassy has been inundated with heartwarming sympathies and good wishes from Nigerian brothers and sisters. We highly appreciate that the government and good people of Nigeria firmly stand by us in this difficult time. As President Muhammadu Buhari noted in his statement of solidarity on February 2, “China’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus have been exemplary, as well as the country’s collaboration with international agencies and other countries on the matter”, “With all the efforts being put in, we know that it is only a matter of time before this nightmare passes.” Together, we shall prevail.
The NCP epidemic comes and will go. The outbreak is just temporary, but friendship and cooperation are forever. China will always remember the sympathy and support given to us in this battle against the virus.
*Dr. ZHOU Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria