COVID-19 outbreak: China’s epidemic response sets global example
By Olayiwola Victor Ojo

The re-emergence of infectious diseases remains a big threat to human existence. In recent past, virus outbreaks have varied from Marberg, Ebola, Hendra, H5N1 bird flu, Nipah, SARS, H1N1, MERS, H7N9 bird flu and recently the outbreak of a new strain of virus responsible for respiratory illness called COVID-19. Undoubtedly, the novel corona virus epidemic identified in Wuhan is causing shock waves and panic across the world. In fact the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a global pandemic. In the face of the COVID-19 challenge, quite a number of world leaders and countries have affirmed their solidarity with China in the fight against the virulent corona virus. International students, foreign talents and business people too have expressed their support.

In spite of widespread solidarity from diverse quarters, the COVID-19 outbreak seems to be a test of global solidarity as the virus outbreak in China has boosted anti-Chinese racism and subterfuge reporting across some media outlet termed "infodemic" by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the fundamental question is, how has China responded to the epidemic? Has China really shown capacity for disease control in combating the virulent novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic?

While concerted efforts are being made by biotech companies and pharmaceuticals globally to create a vaccine for COVID-19, the Chinese government’s epidemic response to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been robust. No doubt in the advent of a new virus outbreak when vaccines are not yet available, community mitigation strategies known as non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are the best means of control. The government under the leadership of President Xi Jinping has taken proactive measures-he sanctioned local leaders of the Chinese Communist Party for the not too impressive management, response and containment of the outbreak at the centre of COVID-19 outbreak. In the face of medical strain at the epicentre of the outbreak, the government mobilized medics and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from all over China to the epicentre. More impressive was the building of 1,000 bed capacity hospital in Wuhan in 10 days, sensitization of the public to abide by hygienic practice cannot but be mentioned. Other measures included curbing travel, isolation, sanitation and lock down, shutting down of public transportation, particularly in Hubei province to combat and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Containment and control strategies extend to equipping public health labs across China with testing capacity for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), availability of infection control hospitals, enhanced quarantine system and facility, temperature check and stepped up screening when entering metro, marketplace, stores, airport, etc. Also put in place were infographics, electronic surveillance measures, daily update and situational report of the virus outbreak under the categorization of suspected, confirmed, cured and Death. Hot lines for both Chinese and foreigners amid the novel coronavirus outbreak were also launched. Thus, the government made it pretty easy for all to track from home the closest infected person and the pneumonia geographical spread.

To further contain the spread and mitigate risk and impact of the virus, wearing of face masks in public was made mandatory, public events were cancelled, popular tourist destinations, parks and cinemas were shut. China embraced virtual education i.e online education. An online cloud learning platform was lofted nationally to provide study resources for junior and senior high school students. Quite a number of universities too have started online education and engagement with students via livestreaming classes. Further, worthy of mention is entry-exit convenience for foreigners (excluding the key epidemic regions) in China and issuance of urgent entry and entry permits for those coming to China for COVID-19 scientific research projects.

Though there are divergent analogies on COVID-19 emergence, context of the outbreak, cause and effect .Recent situational report attest to the fact that the sweeping control measures put in place have yielded positive result as the number of new coronavirus cases in China are declining significantly. However, to reduce the impact of the virus outbreak on China’s economy and its ripple effect on the world as the manufacturing and exporting hub of the world (accounting for 16 percent of global output) a number of companies have resumed production in China and they are increasing by the day while millions of people are returning to their places of work gradually with the exception of Hubei province.

China’s containment efforts to stem the spread of the virus within mainland China and globally is riveting and commendable. Indeed, China has shown resilience through a strengthened diagnosis system, medication, monitoring and reporting. The public health response to COVID-19 pneumonia lends credence to a reformed healthcare system coupled and a well-organized emergency response. According to Monica Crowley, ‘‘Healthcare is the cornerstone of the socialist state. It is the crown jewel of the welfare state’’.

With the growing importance of global health diplomacy (GHD) in strengthening international relations between and among countries in the twenty-first century, China as a responsible great power making giant strides under the leadership of Xi has enlivened medical diplomacy through the instrumentality of international medical cooperation by sharing expertise, knowledge and pneumonia-support equipment with a number of countries on COVID-19 owing to a fan out of the novel corona virus across geographical boundaries. As documented by Elif Özkaragöz Doğan “Only through the partnerships of scientists and diplomats can we truly advance global science for the benefit of all people”.

The author concluded his PhD at the School Of Social Science, Shanghai University. His research interest inter alia include: public diplomacy, China-Africa relations, democratization, political communication and development.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.