By Murad Qureshi
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the world’s governments to “test, test, test” after declaring the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11. But since then the British government has moved from dropping its initial response-”herd immunity”-to locking down the whole country in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 has claimed more than 20,000 hospital deaths to date and this excludes the figures of fatalities in Social Care and in the wider community-people who could well have passed away in social isolation. As a result with the return of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to 10 Downing Street, his key decision will be whether to extend the lockdown in response to the much higher than expected number of fatalities.
In the United Kingdom, much of the focus has been on the availability of personal protection equipment (PPE) for front-line workers, not just in the health and social care sectors, but also in transport and other key sectors. Almost a third of the doctors treating COVID-19 patients do not have access to enough face masks, PPE and other medical gear to keep them safe, a survey released recently said. Not surprisingly, many doctors and nurses of the National Health Service have fallen victim to COVID-19.
In addition, despite the demand for public transportation falling significantly-more than 90 percent for the subway-we have seen some fatalities among transport workers.
For example at least 14 bus workers in London had lost their lives already to COVID-19 before the drivers were isolated from the passengers physically and bus service was made free to reduce contact with drivers.
As well as the lives lost and the suffering of the people, the pandemic is also extracting a huge economic cost, because for every one month of lockdown, the UK economy will lose 2 percent of GDP according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development sources. As such, some governments in countries under lockdown have already started discussing ways to restart parts of their economies.
Since infections are not spread evenly across countries, it’s worth looking at major city-regions. While the lockdown in Wuhan, Hubei province, was lifted on April 8 and the city seems to be gradually returning to normal, new deaths in Lombardy, Italy, and Madrid, Spain, are flattening off. But as the death toll is still rising in New York and is yet to flatten in London, we expect the lockdown to be extended.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that we can beat the novel coronavirus only if cities around the world work together, meaning we need international cooperation, both on the medical and economic fronts, to defeat the virus.
So what has been happening with global cooperation?
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has suggested that the fight against the “pandemic is not a war”, as many world leaders have claimed, “rather, it is a test of humanity”.
In this spirit, China donated $20 million and then another $30 million to the WHO, while helping more than 120 countries, including the UK, fight the outbreak by dispatching medical supplies and medical experts to them. For that, we are truly grateful. China has also been cooperating with other countries in the research to develop a vaccine.
Indeed, the Italian people have expressed gratitude to China for lending a helping hand and the UK’s deputy chief medical officer has spoken highly of the exchanges between the Chinese and British medical experts. And Steinmeier has said the pandemic is “bringing out the best and the worst in people”.
In this context, an Ipsos survey showed that one in every seven persons has avoided people of Chinese origin or those with mongoloid features since the virus started spreading in the UK. But xenophobia won’t save anybody from the virus, especially when it’s highly possible that a non-Chinese brought the virus to the UK.
–The Daily Mail-China Daily news exchange item