By Pu Jin
(Chinese people even the Asians in west have been becoming the target of racist abuse as paranoia mounts over the outbreak of Coronavirus. As the outbreak continues to disrupt daily life in China, many of us are eager and have a free time to follow what’s happening and I am not an expert in any way, shape or form, I am just a foreigner living in China for the past decade. Please ignore my rantings. In fact, you should probably just stop reading now.)
Time and again a new virus is spreading and fortunately, the world is comparatively better prepared than ever to stop it. The latest Coronavirus to emerge is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) Wuhan flu and is setting the world ablaze due to its rapid spread through China and to other countries, presumably being spread by visitors arriving from Wuhan. How and when it infected the first human being, by making the jump from an animal, is anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain about the new Coronavirus which was discovered in December in China is now causing a global scare: it is a known unknown.
Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that includes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which swept across China and killed nearly 500 people back in 2003, and MERS (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome). This time around, the novel Coronavirus proves to be in the same family with the said two and have been confirmed capable of spreading from human to human. Almost everyone gets a Coronavirus infection at least once in their life, most likely as a young child as they all share their ancestry with the common cold and flu.
Some of the first people with 2019-nCov had links to an animal and seafood market. This initially suggested that animals transmit the virus to humans. However, people with a more recent diagnosis had no connections with or exposure to the market, suggesting that humans can pass the virus to each other. However, it is less clear with Coronaviruses as to how rapidly they will spread. Symptoms vary from person to person and it may produce few or no symptoms. However, it can also lead to severe illness and may be fatal. From everything we’ve read so far, researchers and front-line medical personnel say the maximum incubation period for the Wuhan Coronavirus is 14 days. The Coronavirus suspected means of transmission have expanded from air droplets and close contact to include the fecal-oral pathway, and possibly others.
No vaccine is currently available. However, scientists have replicated the virus. This could allow for early detection and treatment in people who have the virus but are not yet showing symptoms. As of Tuesday morning, a total of 20,471 people in China had tested positive for Coronavirus infections, with 2,296 of them in severe condition, according to the National Health Commission. As China admitted shortcomings and difficulties in its response to the outbreak the commission also reported that 656 people have made full recoveries after becoming infected. Yes, recoveries are going way up, as they should and all signs point to this virus being one of the weaker of humanity’s recent plagues.
As the virus spreads in China, everyone seems to be running short of facial masks. Pharmacy shelves were scooped bare. E-commerce sites see their stocks gone in seconds. Even doctors battling against the virus had to recycle their masks due to limited supply. The continued increase in cases, and the evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, are both deeply concerning. Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak for countries with weaker health system.
However, despite the challenges that China’s facing with the Corona outbreak, the Chinese have been forthcoming and swift to act. Doctors in Wuhan, the metropolis where it began, have come in for criticism, but the signs are that they promptly sounded an alarm about an unusual cluster of cases of pneumonia — thereby following a standard protocol for spotting new viruses. Chinese scientists quickly isolated the pathogen and shared its genomic details with the world. Back in the days of SARS, genetic sequencing like this took weeks. The genomic data can help scientists spot cases quickly, both in China and abroad.
Meanwhile, people are advised to stay at home and wear face masks when going out, especially to a public area. The government stopped travel in and out of Wuhan and two nearby cities, corralling almost 20m people. That is extreme and heavy-handed considering the biggest festival the Chinese New Year. Yet, although it could drive some cases underground, it will also slow the spread of the virus across China and abroad. Most of the cities are much quieter than normal partly due to the virus. The public transport are no longer as busy as it used to be. Young people in face masks quickly shuttle past each other with little conversation to be heard.
To prevent the spread of the virus, public areas and facilities such as entrances and exits of airports, train stations, subway stations, highways, escalators, self-service machines and public toilets are disinfected many times a day. All staffs and drivers are required to take temperature tests and operating vehicles are sterilized every now and then. People are few and far between on the streets but those we do see continue to wear masks and it is mandatory that all people have their temperature checked at the entrance of every building. Some villages take it on themselves to block out-of-town folks and cars by sealing off the entrance with bamboo sticks, hand-painted boards and boulders, etc.
China is straight up on it, and is doing things that literally only China can do to contain the spread of the virus. Below, are the highlight of the five most amazing things China is doing to fight this epidemic.
Transparency and Openness
Every day people can track the number of confirmed cases and have a clear picture of how China’s health sector is responding to the virus threat. It keeps citizens up to date on confirmed cases, suspected cases, serious cases, number of casualties and recovered patients. This is an unprecedented level of transparency; with researchers already working on future treatment options. There are comprehensive online information campaigns that cover a wide range of topics, from the genome sequence of the virus to how to wear masks efficiently and effectively. For anyone who has traveled by plane or train within the last month can input the flight or train number at the Coronavirus tracker available on 133.cn- to learn whether a passenger infected was on your trip.
World Health Organization’s Confidence
The World Health Organization, through its Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed full confidence in China’s ability to curb and control the disease, noting that China’s response so far has been nothing short of exceptional. And that there’s no need to stop trading with China in fear of the virus.
Strengthening Health Services Support
Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, continues to receive huge support from within China and beyond. Other provinces have dispatched their medical staff to help control the virus and military medics are also on the ground to offer their indelible help. Efforts have been made to offer all people in China, including foreigners, all the help they need in this period, from lists of hospitals, to stores that sell masks to visa support. Information on public transportation itineraries of people who have been in affected areas has been public, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Digital Economy Support
China is also using technology to fight the virus. Large tech companies, like Tencent, on their Wechat platform have introduced a health-focused mini-program that helps users identify their symptoms, make appointments at hospitals, get more information about the virus and even where to buy masks.
The Meituan APP has also introduced contact-less food delivery services, where you can ask the delivery guy to drop off your food by the door, or a few meters from your house for pick-up.
Alibaba has also expedited the procurement of medical supplies on its platform, like medical masks and other equipment to fight the novel Coronavirus. There are various other platforms that accept donations and are raising funds for some of the worst-hit areas.
The Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan was completed in just under a week. This would not have been possible anywhere outside of China. The hospital has a capacity of over 1000 beds and a second hospital with an expected capacity of over 1500 beds is also under construction and will be completed soon.
The virus has led a lots of people to seek advice and turn to social media to appease their anxieties – however this causes a lots of unverified and contradictory information to arise; making it extra hard to decide. Please note it is necessary to maintain personal hygiene and protection measures even if there are no cases yet reported in communities around your living area. Please, don’t believe everything you hear on the news especially the social media. Instead, do pray for China and all of the people who are working tirelessly to keep this nation and the world safe. While the virus may have originated in China, viral diseases have no ethnic, racial or national characteristics and yes, Coronavirus is NOT China Virus! We have a reason to fear of Coronaviurs, yet, we have no reason to spread out prejudice!