-China hits back on virus spread with effective, unprecedented measures on unbelievable pace
-Hundreds of Americans, Japanese, Germans, Britons escaped the quarantined Wuhan city via charter flights, causing global spread of the newly surfaced deadly virus China locked down own province to save global community & effectively contain the spread of virus
-Strengthening of the Chinese Center for Disease Control & Prevention became a turning point in outbreak responses, tuning up great progress for global health security and diplomacy
-Communist Party’s top body, headed by President Xi Jinping took direct control of the response
-Premier Li Keqiang rushed to Wuhan for a personalized supervision of relief process in the virus-stricken city
-Move to build 2 exclusive Coronavirus hospitals in Wuhan in record breaking time to meet the treatment challenges surprises global community
-Vaccine making experts at University of Hong Kong believe that most of these infections will be mild, death rate from the virus could be as low as 0.1%
-WHO about to decide which vaccine will be tested on humans first in the coming days
-Role of media, social media emerged as highly controversial, spreading chaos as an agenda
-International students, Pakistani community highly appreciative of Chinese government’s measures, Pakistan Embassy’s efforts in hour of crisis
-Pakistan Embassy in Beijing extends extraordinary Consular services to stranded students, trapped businessmen
-Pakistan sends medical supplies out of its national medical reserves
-Beijing hails Pakistan’s assistance, cooperation in moment of crisis saying Pakistan proves to be the friend in need
From Mahnoor Makhdoom in Beijing
(Additional reporting by Sandra Johnson in Washington, Angela Alderman in Sydney, Sardar Shahab in London, Olga Dmitri in Moscow and Ajmal Khan in Islamabad)
China’s leadership, its officials, Scientists, Researchers and even volunteers, all have come up with an unprecedented zeal to fight back the deadly virus that has emerged as global health concern and they have so far made unprecedented achievements in the direction of not only responding to halt the virus spread but also to dig out the cure to the menace despite all odds, reveal the Special Investigations, carried out by The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail’s finding indicate that on 8 December 2019, the Chinese government identified the death of 1 patient with some 40 others being hospitalized with unknown etiology in Wuhan, a city in central China. Merely within a month of the first virus infection was reported, the Chinese authorities shut down a seafood market in Wuhan, on 1st January 2020, known for selling live exotic small animals for food, under the suspicion of being the source of a new virus from the family of Coronaviruses, later termed as Novel Coronavirus or Wuhan Coronavirus.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that Human Coronaviruses (HCoV) were first identified in the 1960s in the noses of patients with the common cold. Two human Coronaviruses are responsible for a large proportion of common colds (OC43) and (229E). Coronaviruses were given their name based on the crown-like projections on their surfaces. “Corona” in Latin means “halo” or “crown.” Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that some types of Coronaviruses are serious. About 858 people died from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which first appeared in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and then in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In April 2014, the first American was hospitalized for MERS in Indiana and another case was reported in Florida. Both had just returned from Saudi Arabia. In May 2015, there was an outbreak of MERS in Korea, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2003, 774 people died from a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. As of 2015, there were no further reports of cases of SARS. However in early 2020, following a December 2019 outbreak in Wuhan, the World Health Organization identified a new type, 2019 novel Coronavirus, the 2019-nCoV. There are currently seven recognized types of coronavirus that can infect human that include:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
- And the latest being 2019-nCov
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the Chinese government’s response to this new outbreak has been dramatically swift and magnificently decisive. These investigations
indicate that Chinese health authorities were the first to post the full genome of the 2019-nCoV in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAIDexternal icon) portal, an action which very smartly and effectively facilitated detection of this virus. These investigations reveal that though on January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concernexternal Icon, (PHEIC) that calls for coordinated international response, Chinese government had already put its counter measures in top gear.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the strengthening of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been a turning point in outbreak responses. This represents very welcome progress and development for global health security and diplomacy. These investigations indicate that in a massive effort of national and international coordination, a consortium led by Chinese scientists and international researchers was rapidly brought together. This included the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and School of Public Health, the Central Hospital of Wuhan, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, and the University of Sydney, Australia.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that while Chinese authorities were grappling with measures to put in place an effective mechanism to prevent the spread of the virus out of Wuhan, hundreds of Americans and Japanese escaped the quarantined Wuhan city aboard charter flights, presumably taking the infection with them, before China could have prevented its spread out of China and also to mainland China. It is believed that the move by the Americans, Japanese and some other panicking foreigners, took the virus spread to nearly 20 countries across the world as a subsequence of this un-thoughtful. After this unexpected development, Chinese authorities imposed transport bans in and around Wuhan in an unprecedented quarantine effort. China also took other extraordinary measures to try and stop the disease spreading, including bans on tour groups travelling overseas, suspending schools and extending the Lunar New Year holiday.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that these effective measures that the Chinese government took to prevent the virus spread though placed almost 50 million people on lockdown, with full or partial travel restrictions on 15 cities across Hubei, the central Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital, with thirty provinces and major cities activating their highest level of emergency response, erecting checkpoints on roads and screening of travelers at airports and train stations, yet they managed very successfully to prevent the virus spread at the large-scale. It was because of this extraordinary move by Chinese authorities that mega cities like Beijing, with population of 24 million, could report merely a few hundred cases of virus infection.
In Beijing, the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s top body, headed by President Xi Jinping took direct control of the response. Premier Li Keqiang rushed to Wuhan for a personal inspection of hospitals in the stricken city. The unprecedented scale of the response speaks in part to the sheer size of China as 60 million people is greater than the entire population of South Korea, and Hubei spans the equivalent area as Syria. Such, a lockdown has never been carried out in China before, not even during the 2003 SARS outbreak. But, the Chinese leadership opted for these extraordinary measures for the larger interest of mankind and humanity, despite the fact that the cost of it is staggering, not just in terms of manpower or funds, but also the economic hit which Hubei will take and the knock on effect this will have on the wider Chinese economy during a sensitive period.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further indicate that Chinese leadership has ordered work on construction of 2 exclusive and mega hospitals in Wuhan for the treatment of the virus infected patients on emergency basis. The project is being carried out on war-footings and is set to create a new world record of speedy construction of a mega medical facility. One of the emergency Wuhan hospitals is very close to completion.
The rapid progress on the building work of the Huoshenshan hospital has earned a huge global appreciation as it has been viewed by millions across the world through live streaming on the YouTube channel of Chinese media network, the CGTN. The reports confirm a series of near-finished buildings, including a second floor in some cases. Yesterday marked just the 9th day of construction on the Huoshenshan hospital, which is due to go into use in just three days today. Only a week ago the site was an empty plot of land.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that Huoshenshan hospital has an area of 25,000 square meters (269,000 square feet), and 1,000 beds. The construction of a second hospital is also going on in same pace and manner. The Leishenshan Hospital has a larger capacity of 1,600 beds, and is expected to open by coming Wednesday. Both, the hospitals are located about 25 miles apart. In its mega and comprehensive response, Chinese leadership has decided to build two more hospitals in the nearby city of Huanggang, and in Zhenzhou, a city about 300 miles away. It is worth mentioning here that in 2003, Chinese authorities built the Xiaotangshan Hospital in Beijing in just seven days to respond to the SARS epidemic. It treated one-seventh of all of the country’s SARS patients at the time.
The Daily Mail’s investigations signify that though some researchers are worried that as the China Coronavirus spreads, the pathogen could mutate so it can spread more efficiently, or become more likely to cause disease in young people. Currently, the virus has caused severe illness, and death, mainly in older people, particularly those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. However, Kristian Andersen, an infectious-disease researcher at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, is not concerned about the virus becoming more virulent. He says that viruses constantly mutate as part of their life cycle, but those mutations don’t typically make the virus more virulent or cause more serious disease. “I can’t think of any examples of this having happened with an outbreak pathogen,” he says.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that with slightly over 300 deaths out of nearly 10,000 reported infections, the new Coronavirus has a death rate could remain around 2–3% which actually is very much lower than that of SARS, which killed around 10% of the people it infected. These investigations further reveal that the known death rate for the new Coronavirus is likely to decrease as mild and asymptomatic cases are identified.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that this low death rate is being expected by global researchers, owing to China’s rapid response and the effectiveness of country’s strengthened health system. The experts, contacted by The Daily Mail say that China was following a unique and state of the art counter strategy. They said Chinese doctors were putting people on drips and ventilators to ensure that they get enough fluids and oxygen while their body’s immune system fights the virus.”But if the virus spreads to parts of the world with fewer resources, such as income regions of Africa or South Asia, their health systems could struggle”, said an infectious-disease specialist at the Australian National University in Canberra. The same was verified by Director General of the World health organization (WHO as while declaring a global health emergency he, said his main concern was that the outbreak could spread to countries with fragile health systems. The China Coronavirus probably won’t trigger such an apocalyptic scenario, because it isn’t typically infecting or killing young, healthy people, says Adam Kamradt-Scott, a global health-security specialist at the University of Sydney, Australia.
The Daily Mail’s investigations confirm that since at the time of the detection of virus, there was no specific treatment available, Chinese authorities decided to focus on alleviation of symptoms which may include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) started testing existing pneumonia treatments for efficacy in treating Coronavirus-related pneumonia. They started studying existing antiviral including protease inhibitors like indinavir saquinavir and lopinavir/ritonavir, as well as the RNA polymerase inhibitor remdesivir. While they also included to put Interferon beta under study while the effectiveness of previously identified monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) was also put under investigation.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that as result of these immediate studies and research process, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has already started intensive work to develop a vaccine against the novel Coronavirus. The team of Yuen Kwok-yung at the University of Hong Kong, which previously participated in work on the SARS Coronavirus during its 2003 outbreak, has also announced that a vaccine is under development there.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further highlight that apart from this, three vaccine projects are being supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), including projects by the biotechnology companies Moderna and Inovio Pharmaceuticals and another by the University of Queensland. The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) is cooperating with Moderna to create an RNA vaccine matching a spike of the Coronavirus surface, and is hoping to start production by May 2020. In Australia, the University of Queensland is investigating the potential of a molecular clamp vaccine that would genetically modify viral proteins to make them mimic the Coronavirus and stimulate an immune reaction. Inovio, has a candidate vaccine ready for preclinical testing and is collaborating with a Chinese firm in order to speed its acceptance by regulatory authorities in China.
Global researchers and scientists are highly appreciating the rapid response by Chinese government to the Coronavirus issue and in the words of Professor Peter Hotez, a noted American expert of vaccinology, it was simply “remarkable” that scientists were able to start developing a vaccine for a virus that was identified less than a month ago. He credits Chinese researchers, who quickly sequenced and published the virus’s genome. “With SARS, it took almost a year to be able to identify and map the full genetic code,” he said. “Now we’re doing this in just a few weeks,” says Prof. Hotez.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that government scientists and experts in China are coordinating research to develop the most effective vaccine with their counterparts in Australia and the US. These investigations disclose that a team in Hong Kong has made a major headway in this regard and they say, they have already done it. However, the drug would still need to pass some rounds of animal testing, human clinical trials, and regulatory approval before getting released to the market. But, the way China is moving on it, it seems it would not be a long time for the vaccine to hit shops.
The Daily Mail’s investigations show that the existing Chinese data from the SARS and MERS outbreaks and familiarity with the spike protein characteristic of Coronaviruses is helping immensely the vaccine developing scientists. The experimental vaccine created by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) researchers, for instance, was produced by modifying part of the existing flu vaccine.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that unlike in many previous outbreaks; where vaccines to protect people took years to develop, research for Coronavirus vaccine got underway within hours of the virus being identified, merely because of timely response to the issue by China. The investigations of The Daily Mail reveal that Chinese officials released its genetic code very quickly. That information helped scientists determine where the virus probably came from, how it might mutate as the outbreak develops, and how to protect people against it and it finally enabled research facilities to spring into action fast. According to Kate Broderick, Senior Vice-President of research and development at Inovio, “after China provided the DNA sequence of this virus without losing any time, we were able to put it through our lab’s computer technology and design a vaccine within three hours. Our DNA medicine vaccines are novel in that they use DNA sequences from the virus to target specific parts of the pathogen which we believe the body will mount the strongest response to,” says Kate Broderick
Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo from the WHO’s Health Emergencies programme says “We have developed a framework to inform decisions on which candidate vaccine(s) should be tested first. The experts will consider a number of criteria, including acceptable safety profile, induction of appropriate immune responses, and the timely availability of sufficient supplies of vaccine doses. Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, its transmission, its clinical severity and developing effective counter measures is critical for the control of the outbreak.” The WHO is due to decide which vaccine will be tested on humans first in the coming days.
The Daily Mail’s investigations signify that in another development, China is working with Russia to develop the vaccine and Beijing has handed over the genome of the virus to Moscow. The Russian government confirms it by saying in an official statement issued by Moscow’s Consulate in China’s Guangzhou that Russian and Chinese experts had begun developing a vaccine. “The Chinese side handed over the virus genome to Russia, which has allowed our scientists to rapidly develop express-tests that make it possible to identify the virus in the human body within two hours,” the Russian Consulate said in the statement. It was however not clear if Russian and Chinese scientists were working together or separately as the Russian Consulate in Guangzhou could not be reached for comment.
In yet another development, a team of scientists in Australia claim that they have successfully developed a lab-grown version of the virus, the first to be recreated outside of China, in a breakthrough that could help quicken the creation of a vaccine. The researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne said they would share the sample, which was grown from an infected patient, with the World Health Organization (WHO) and laboratories around the globe.
The Daily Mail’s investigations confirm that Scientists are turning to infection-fighting proteins known as monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs, that were developed against the SARS and MERS Coronaviruses. They hope that similarities with the Wuhan virus will offer enough overlap in the antibodies to help people infected in the Wuhan outbreak.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further show that an institute affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ research of combining several antiviral drugs with inhibiting effects against the novel Coronavirus has been selected by the Wuhan Institute of Virology for potential clinical trials. Remdesivir,a medicine for Ebola virus, Chloroquine, which is used to treat malaria, and anti-HIV drug Ritonavir were jointly found by the Institute and the Academy of Sciences to be good inhibitors against the coronavirus at cellular level.
According to The Daily Mail’s findings, at the end of January, reported deaths represent about 2% of confirmed infections. Gabriel Leung and Joseph Wu at the University of Hong Kong that most of these infections will be mild, so the death rate for the virus could be as low as 0.1% which is no deadlier than the common flu in America.
On the other side, global leaders and Word bodies like WHO have highly appreciated the Chinese efforts being carried out for the prevention of global spread of the virus. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who held meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping, said that Chinese officials had shown they were committed to combating the transmission of the virus and demonstrated cooperation with other countries to stem its global spread.
“Its actions actually helped prevent the spread of Coronavirus to other countries,” Tedros, as he is known, said about China. He said he was “very impressed and encouraged by the President’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak,” he said.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the role of international media has generally remained very disappointing and rather negative so far. They have been doing the reporting with acute irresponsibility with many of them following particular agendas. The majority of the global media, instead of spreading awareness and hope, proffered to create chaos and spread panic and confusion.
Misreporting and even false reporting has been very common so far with regard to reporting the Coronavrius situation. If the so-called mainstream media across the world was not enough to crate maximum fuss, the new tool of media that is the social media has continuously been playing its dirty role most of the time. Showing fake or irrelevant videos and linking them to the current situation has been a routine. Ridiculing Chinese nation and Chinese leadership to settle certain unfinished agendas, has also been quite prominent by certain social media activists and media outlets.
For instance, The British newspaper Daily Mail UK was among the first to suggest the possibility of a link between the newly spreading virus and the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, reporting last week that the lab, which opened in 2014 and is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, had been the subject of safety concerns in the past.
Similarly, a separate article published by the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper in Washington, took the theories a step further, suggesting in a headline that the “Coronavirus may have originated in lab linked to China’s biowarfare program” and pointing to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The article cited research by Dany Shoham, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, who told media that he did not want to comment further.
How the Foreign students in China react to the situation
The Daily Mail got in touch with different foreign students studying at different cities across China and got their reactions to the prevailing situation.
Naseem Baloch, a student at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, while talking to The Daily Mail assured that he and his fellow students were safe from the threat of Coronavirus and that basic life sustaining facilities were readily available to them.
He said that the University also designated representatives who are available 24 hours a day to the International students to cater to all needs and concerns. He also said, that some students were taking advantage of the situation and misguiding the media to report false information. He repeatedly emphasized at how grateful he was to the Chinese government and the University administration for avidly taking care of the students and implementing effective measures to ensure everyone’s health. He also praised the efforts of Pakistan Embassy’s staff that remained in touch and continued to console them throughout.
Another foreign student,, Mariam Darrelle 24, from Cameroon, a language student in the Communication University of China, when contacted by The Daily Mail, also greatly appreciated Chinese government’s response to the Coronavirus challenge and her University’s efforts in making the International Students’ life comfortable and safe by providing free masks and disinfectants to the students in the dormitory. She also appreciated the measures taken by the Chinese government and even by the dormitory staff such as, not allowing non-residents of the dormitory to enter the premises and regularly checking temperatures of the students.
Esra Monir, a student from Egypt while speaking to The Daily Mail also lauded the International Students dormitory staff for taking effective measures and showing genuine concern and constantly encouraging students to keep their masks and wash hands. He paid rich tributes to the government of China for handling the crisis in the most befitting manner and issuing highly effective contingency plan to meet the challenge, especially with regard to safety of foreign students in local universities.
Talking to The Daily Mail, Saim Sajjad and Sally Basharat both Pakistani students in Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, said that the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing has been very cooperative and boosted their morale by addressing their concerns and giving satisfying answers. They also mentioned how helpful their university administration was being in accommodating them in every way. They have consistently been helping them in ordering vegetables and other food online. Everything they require can be delivered to their doorstep.
The Daily Mail also reached out to the Pakistani community members and some students and traders, trapped at Urumqi Airport of Xinjiang province. Talking to The Daily Mail, these stranded Pakistanis informed The Daily Mail that they had booked their seats with China Southern Airline for return to Pakistan and reached Urumqi from different cities. However, when they reached at Urumqi Airport, China Southern Airlines cancelled its international flight operations from Urumqi and they got trapped at the airport. Many of them stated that their biggest problem was that their visas were expiring as they had either finished their educational terms in China or had concluded their business trips. They said though they remain in trouble for initial couple of days but when they managed to establish a contact with Pakistani Embassy in Beijing, the Embassy responded very swiftly. They said that due to the Consular services, provided by the Pakistan Embassy, they not only got extension in their visas but the Chinese authorities also provided them with local hospitalities included boarding and lodging with meals at quality hotels till the Airlines starts its operation. They paid rich tributes both to the Pakistan Ambassador and her team and to the Chinese authorities.
Asif Jalil, a Beijing resident of Pakistani origin, when contacted by The Daily Mail, said he was very much proud of Pakistani Diplomatic Missions across China and particularly the Embassy in Beijing. He said after a long time, he experienced that Pakistani diplomats to care about their nationals. “ The Pakistani Embassy staff is been in touch with Pakistani community after the virus breakout and the way Consular services were extended to the community, it was highly remarkable. I am though leaving for Pakistan for a pre-scheduled family commitment, yet all the community members that I interacted with during past few days, I found them to be in state of acute calm and satisfaction just because the Pakistan Embassy was keeping them so,” asserted Mr. Jalil. Many other Pakistani community members, contacted by The Daily Mail, offered more or less same comments and remarks.
Meanwhile, Pakistan government has sent a special consignment of medical supplies as a token of its contribution to relief and rescue work in Wuhan by Chinese government. The shipment that included 300,000 masks, nearly a thousand Hazmat suits, thousands of gloves etc, collected from stocks of Public hospitals across Pakistan, reached China on Sunday by a PAF’s special c-130 aircraft and straightaway handed over to the Chinese authorities.
Pakistan has conveyed to the Chinese government that it is ready to provide whatever China feels is needed from Pakistan as the Iron Brother stands shoulder to shoulder with the other Iron Brother in this moment of crisis. Pakistan government has once again showed its utmost support to Chinese government and people of China in this time of crisis, while Islamabad has deeded not to put any travel restrictions on Chinese for coming to Pakistan and for Pakistanis to go to China, unlike many other countries that opted to do it straightaway.
Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, yesterday talked to his Chinese counterpart on phone and expressed Pakistan’s readiness to its best to help China overcome the current challenge . He said apart from government of Pakistan, people of Pakistan were standing by the Chinese brethren during the moment of crisis. He pledged that Pakistan will continue to extend all help and support to China in coming days as well.