World should not be misled with baseless accusations

By ZhengGuichu  
Chinese and Iraqi health workers in a specialized hospital for people infected with COVID-19 in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 14 (XINHUA)

China well understands the grim and severe challenges the U.S. is facing due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. We share the worries and woes and extend our deep sympathies, and are providing support and assistance to the world, the U.S. included for sure, to the best of our ability, despite China’s own high demand for medical supplies at home as millions are returning to work, and concerns over imported cases and a COVID-19 resurgence persist.

By the same token, China does not want the world’s general public to be misled by groundless accusations and stigmatization against China. Reason and civility need to be maintained at this critical juncture. We believe it’s a fight of the whole world against the virus, not an infight among global villagers, least a bitter rift for selfish political calculations and gains. The global combat against COVID-19 should be a united battle and should have nothing to do with the social system or geopolitics. To point the finger at others helps little in one’s own country’s virus containment. Sometimes, the only effects it generates are hatred and confrontation.

First report ≠ origin

Though COVID-19 was first reported in China, it does not mean that it originated in China. Ignorance needs to be overcome with science and prejudice with cooperation. The purpose of finding the virus source is to enable humans to defeat the virus and to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Any attempt to put a label on the coronavirus is to despise science and common sense.

Till now, even the scientific world has not been able to conclude where the virus came from. Someone has used invidious and inaccurate terms and acridly called the novel coronavirus the “China virus.” The first reported AIDS case in the U.S. dates back to 1981. Does anyone label it as “America AIDS?” The H1NI virus broke out in North America and spread to the world in 2009. Does anyone call it the “America virus?”

The influenza infection rate and mortality rate in the U.S. are both high. Global media outlets have constantly raised the issue that the novel coronavirus epidemic and the influenza epidemic are not clearly distinguished in the U.S. A New York Times article, Most New York Coronavirus Cases Came From Europe, Genomes Show, on April 8, said researchers have suggested the coronavirus was circulating in New York in mid-February as genetic analysis showed that the virus came to the area mainly from Europe. A separate team at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases, the report said.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on April 8, Peter Forster, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, said according to research by him and his team, the first human infection of COVID-19, referred to as SARS-CoV-2 in the paper, took place between September 13 and December 7, 2019.

Forster’s paper creatively applied phylogenetic network analysis, which he usually uses to analyze human origins, to finding the virus origin. After mapping out 160 genetic samples from across the world, he found three major types of SARS-CoV-2, namely A, B and C. The A type, being the first type to infect humans, is widely seen in Europe and America but is not so common in East Asia. And the B type, which is the most common type in East Asia, seemed to be largely locked in the region, partly because people in other areas may have better resistance against it. The C type is found in significant proportions outside East Asia, and that again is, in Europeans and Americans.

The medical journal Nature Medicine published a paper on the origin of the novel coronavirus, again referred to as SARS-CoV-2, titled The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2. Based on genomic data, it concluded that COVID-19 “is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.” Scientists who were part of this study traced the novel coronavirus back to cases before Wuhan, Hubei Province in central China. Dr. Robert Garry, a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine and one of the co-authors of the research paper, told ABC News while answering the question whether the virus originated from a market in Wuhan, “Our analyses, and others too, point to an earlier origin than that. There were definitely cases there, but that wasn’t the origin of the virus.”

The naming of diseases has always been as much about politics and the need to identify a scapegoat as it has been about accurately labeling a new threat to life. Periodic attempts have been made to remove the subjective from the process. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) came up with an updated set of guidelines for labeling infectious diseases, and warned against using language that associates viruses with a geographic location or ethnic group, in the hope that by halting politically inspired names, it would enhance public health. After all, the fallout from misnaming a disease can be devastating.

Chinese medical workers visit a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients converted from a convention center in Manila, the Philippines, on April 14 (XINHUA)

Sharing of information

The explosive spread of COVID-19 caught the world by surprise. However, China’s handling and notification have been extremely speedy, open, transparent and responsible, in particular, taking into account that COVID-19 being a brand new virus, it would naturally take some time for China to compass the right direction by making scientific and prudent assessment of its character, transmissibility and severity to stem the spread of the virus. “The speed and scale of China’s move were rarely seen in the world,” as appraised highly by WHO Director General Dr. TedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus.

On December 27, 2019, Zhang Jixian, Director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care at the Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, reported the first three suspected cases.

On December 29, 2019, the centers for disease control and prevention and hospitals in Hubei Province and Wuhan City carried out epidemiological investigations.

On December 30, 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an “urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause.”

On December 31, 2019, the National Health Commission sent an expert group to Wuhan for on-site investigation.

On January 3, China started to send timely updates to other countries, including the U.S., and to WHO, covering the number of diagnosed, suspected, severe and cured cases and the number of people dead and quarantined.

On January 7, the virus was isolated.

On January 8, the pathogen was preliminarily identified.

On January 11, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention uploaded five whole genome sequences of the novel coronavirus on its website and shared the data with the world.

On January 23, Wuhan was put under lockdown and unprecedented, comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures were adopted. It took only a few days to make the decision to seal off the city of 11 million, the first time in human history. These measures went beyond the requirements of the International Health Regulations in many aspects. The government understood that life came before the economy. Its extraordinary and decisive leadership met with an equally extraordinary and proactive response from the people.

Based on this chronological order, the timeline of China’s response has given a detailed account of China’s release of epidemic information to the world, showcasing China’s sincerity in promoting international exchanges and cooperation on epidemic prevention and control.

Plus, on January 30, WHO declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern,” and this again proved that there was no delay in China’s notification.

Another case in point is, within 55 days, the number of new cases in Wuhan dropped to zero. According to a study published in Science magazine on March 31 titled An Investigation of Transmission Control Measures During the First 50 Days of the COVID-19 Epidemic in China, China’s firm and speedy response limited the number of confirmed cases to 96 percent fewer than expected in the absence of intervention measures. Researchers in the United States, the UK and other countries emphasized that China’s control measures have successfully broken the chain of transmission and bought other countries valuable time. WHO affirmed that countries like Singapore and the Republic of Korea have made full use of the precious time China bought for the world and taken necessary prevention and control measures to stem the spread of the looming crisis.

Wuhan and China as a whole have won for the world, and at China’s own loss and sacrifice, the most time possible to get both physically and psychologically prepared. Wuhan is a responsible city and China is a responsible major country, setting a model for cities and for countries around the world.

Yet within those 55 days, despite the available knowledge of the virus from China and the repeated calls for better prevention from WHO, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. soared from only about 10 on February 2, when the U.S. announced the denial of entry by foreigners who had visited China in the past 14 days, to more than 30,000, skyrocketing 3,000 times.

A nurse has her hands sprayed with disinfectant at the Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe’s main COVID-19 isolation and treatment center, on April 9. The hospital was revamped with funds from the Chinese business community in the country (XINHUA)

What has gone wrong?

Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the respected medical publication The Lancet, told the BBC on March 26 that the information that came from China at the end of January was “absolutely clear,” but “we wasted February when we could have acted.”

In an article on April 4, titled 70 Days of Denial, Delays and Dysfunction, The Washington Post emphasized that “from the White House to the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], political and institutional failures cascaded as the virus spread. Despite being better prepared than many countries, the U.S. saw opportunities to mitigate the crisis slip away.”

On April 12, The New York Times in an article titled Despite Timely Alerts, Trump Was Slow to Act reported that a week after the first coronavirus case had been identified in the U.S., Dr. Carter Mecher, a senior medical adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs, was urging the upper echelons of the public health bureaucracy to wake up and prepare for far more drastic action. However, it was six long weeks before President Donald Trump finally took aggressive action to confront the danger the nation was facing.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in her April 14 letter to House Democrats, said the U.S. leader “was warned in January about this pandemic, ignored those warnings, took insufficient action and caused unnecessary death and disaster. One month later, we do not have appropriate testing. The failure to test is central to the spread of the virus and its impact on those most vulnerable in our society.”

British scholar Martin Jacques observed in his article Chinese vs. Western Governance: The Case of COVID-19, first published in Chinese in People’s Daily on March 23, that “now it is revealed to the world that Western governments wasted a minimum of two and a half months.” “Western governance has proven to be blinded by its own hubris, unable to learn from China until far too late, ill-equipped to grasp the kind of radical action that is required of it,” he added.

Dr. Helen Y. Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, sounded the alarm on COVID-19 in the U.S. back in January, and reported her testing results to U.S. regulators, only to be told to “cease and desist” and “stop testing,” according to a New York Times report on March 10 titled “It’s Just Everywhere Already”: How Delays in Testing Set Back the U.S. Coronavirus Response.

At the end of February, the White House still asked officials and health experts to get approval from the office of Vice President Michael Pence before making public statements on the epidemic. On March 2, the CDC stopped releasing data on tests and deaths. On the same day, Dr. Colleen McCarthy from the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital said at a CNBC program that his hospital had to “plead” with the health authorities to test suspected cases.

CNN anchor FareedZakaria observed on April 19 on CNN that the U.S. administration was well aware of the dangers of the virus by late January at least, and by mid-February at the latest, yet made a judgment that the virus would not be a big problem for the U.S. and that it would go away in April with warm weather, worried that taking any strong actions against it would spook the stock market. “It is those misjudgments that have significantly worsened the COVID-19 crisis in America. Now, to deflect blame from himself, Trump has decided to bash China. This compounds one bad policy with another.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the medical expert leading the White House effort to contain the coronavirus, reaffirmed in his interview with Science on March 22 that he refused to let others push him to say that China should have warned the U.S. three months beforehand, because it just didn’t comport with the facts.

Who has covered up the facts and evaded its own responsibility? Who has been spreading disinformation? Who has played an indifferent onlooker, dismissed and ignored the threat as a “foreign virus” and indulged in the fancy illusion that the virus only infected Asians, and wasted precious time till it itself was deadly hit? The answer is crystal clear.

China’s active role

China merits the world’s gratitude and appreciation for its arduous efforts in going all out to save lives and minimize global transmission; for its decisive, timely, efficient and effective measures in combating COVID-19, thereby injecting confidence, collecting experiences and enlightening the world that the disease is by and large curable; for its graceful and kind heart in the manifestation of its swift and concrete actions in extending great assistance to other contagion-affected countries, in the humanitarian spirit of saving more lives and safeguarding global public health security; for its advocacy both in words and deeds that solidarity and cooperation are the only powerful weapons in the face of global challenges; and for its persistent pursuit of a community with a shared future for humanity, despite slanders, smears and dirty attacks.

China has provided assistance in large quantities, including medical masks, N95 respirators, goggles, protective suits, nucleic acid testing reagents and ventilators to more than 120 countries and several international organizations. Chinese doctors and health specialists are working hand in hand with their foreign counterparts, both online and on the ground, in sharing technical documents, including epidemic prevention and control measures, as well as diagnosis and treatment plans. Chinese medical teams are fighting the virus shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues in Italy, Iran and many other countries. Chinese local governments, charity organizations and business communities are also joining the efforts and making their contributions.

Why is China helping? All this help is out of a grateful heart and out of a humanitarian spirit. Helping those countries and international organizations at the latter’s request is, on the one hand, reciprocating kindness and friendship extended to China in its hardest time during its COVID-19 fight, and on the other hand, acting in line with international humanitarianism and the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.

China would never stand by and leave its friends in difficulty. As President Xi Jinping emphasized at the Extraordinary Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19 on March 26, “It is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response. We need to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable.” What China will do at this unprecedented moment is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international community to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable.

China’s virtuous acts have won extensive gratitude and applause from the world. Cypriot President NicosAnastasiades expressed his gratitude to China for providing Cyprus with medical supplies and sharing its scientific expertise in the common fight against COVID-19.

Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of Slovakia, expressed gratitude to China on the social networking platform Instagram as a batch of medical supplies, including 1 million medical masks and 100,000 nucleic acid reagent test kits, arrived at the Bratislava Airport on March 19.

“We are grateful for China’s support,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that China would provide 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 filters and 50,000 test kits.

Luigi Di Maio, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, thanked the Chinese Government for donating medical supplies and sending coronavirus specialists to Italy. Milos Zeman, President of the Czech Republic, EmmersonMnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs in France, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, among others, have all expressed thanks to China in one way or another for assistance in combating the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yet at the same time, a bunch of media trolls and pundits, together with some politicians, returning evil for good, have been sparing no efforts to vilify China.

It is meaningless to repeat their words and deeds, for those are only different tricks to pin the blame on others, to shirk responsibility in the belief that their lives would be better off if they create a scapegoat and common enemy.

Facts and figures are more powerful than fabrications and accusations.

China’s sacrifices, efforts and contributions have well protected its homeland, and contributed to the world. China has set a new standard for the world in fulfilling international obligations, as has been widely acknowledged and noted by WHO and the international community.

The ongoing battle against the novel coronavirus is living proof of how much we all belong to a community with a shared future. To use the tragedy of the pandemic, with all the deaths, illness and suffering that ensued, as a stick to beat others was nothing short of a disgrace. To throw malicious stones, pass the buck and divert domestic dissatisfaction, to make up lies and deceit, and to seek excuses and scapegoats for a country’s poor response and incompetence in handling and containing the severity of this viral outbreak, all these could by no means help with alleviating the hard situation of that country, least to support the international community’s joint efforts against COVID-19.

Now, lives and health are at stake. Enough time has been wasted. Efforts should be spent in saving more lives, not on hysterical accusations any more.

It takes a coordinated global effort to roll back a global scourge. What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger. The international community must foster greater synergy and work in solidarity till the final victory is sealed.
– The Daily Mail Beijing Review News exchange item