At the moment, the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak is the top priority of the Chinese government. As President Xi Jinping stressed on February 12 at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, the epidemic control and prevention are now at their toughest and most critical period, and the country must spare no effort to continue with key tasks against the contagion.
China has leveraged its institutional strengths and started an all-out, nationwide people’s war against the novel coronavirus epidemic. The government has taken the most thorough and rigorous measures, many of which have far exceeded what WHO and International Health Regulations required. As of last Saturday, a total of 217 medical teams with 25,633 medical workers had been sent to Hubei to help combat the COVID-19, while 90.15 billion yuan ($12.9 billion) had been allocated for virus prevention and control efforts nationwide. Through these arduous efforts, the epidemic is generally under control. There have been some positive developments in the contagion situation.
Since February 1, cured cases began to outnumber deaths. As of 24:00 February 15, a total of 9419 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery. The oldest among the cured is 96 years old. He is from Zhejiang, the province with 1167 confirmed cases but not a single death of the disease. And the youngest cured? She is a 67-day-old baby in Guizhou province who was discharged from hospital last Saturday.
Since February 3, newly reported confirmed cases are declining day by day outside Hubei, the province with Wuhan as its capital, from 890 cases that day to 731 cases (February 4), 707 cases (February 5), 696 cases (February 6), 558 cases (February 7), 509 cases (February 8), 444 cases (February 9), 381 cases (February 10), 377 cases (February 11), 312 cases (February 12), 267 cases (February 13), 221 cases (February 14), 166 cases (February 15).
The figures show that the COVID-19 epidemic is indeed preventable, controllable and the disease curable. We need to put things in perspective so as to have an objective and accurate analysis of the situation.
As of 24:00 February 15, the mortality rate of COVID-19 in the China’s mainland is 2.43% (1665 deaths out of 68500 confirmed cases), and the mortality rate in Chinese provinces and cities other than Wuhan is merely 1.49% (432 deaths out of 29038 confirmed cases), even lower than that of ordinary pneumonia. The mortality rate outside Hubei province is 0.56% (69 deaths out of 12251 confirmed cases).
In contrast, the H1N1 flu of 2009 had a mortality rate of 17.4%, the mortality rate of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) of 2012 was 34.4%, the mortality rate of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) of 2013 was 10.91%, and the mortality rate of Ebola of 2014 was 40.4%. The mortality rate of the Lassa fever, as Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire said last week, had dropped to 15% from 30% a couple of years ago. 15%.
And, according to a recent United States CDC estimation, from October 1, 2019, through February 1, 2020, in the US there had been 22-31 million flu illnesses, 10-15 million flu medical visits, 210-370 thousand flu hospitalizations, and at least 12-30 thousand flu deaths.
The epicenter of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic is Wuhan, Hubei province. What happens in Wuhan or Hubei should be interpreted as it is. Stereotyping the story of Wuhan or Hubei and applying it to all China or the whole world cannot be more misleading.
Take the confirmed cases. As of 24:00 February 15, a total of 68500 cases had been reported in the China’s mainland. Among them, 56249 cases were in Hubei (82.12%), 39462 cases were in Wuhan (57.61%, and 70.16% of the total cases in Hubei).
And the number of provinces like Hubei in the Chinese mainland? 31. The number of city peers of Wuhan in Hubei province? 16. In Xizang (Tibet), now no COVID-19 cases at all. Only one patient had been confirmed and he walked out of hospital after full recovery on February 12. In recent days, there have been no new confirmed cases reported in several provinces. According to some top epidemiologists, the inflection point of the epidemic has already arrived, though vigilance is still strongly advised.
As the Director-General of WHO Dr. Tedros stresses, “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.” All the responses to the epidemic should be based on science instead of fear. It is understandable that some countries have taken necessary and appropriate prevention measures. But we disapprove of measures out of proportion. As WHO insists, there is no pandemic yet and there is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. WHO doesn’t recommend and actually oppose limiting trade and movement.
Guided by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China is fulfilling its responsibility for the life and health of its own people and for global public health. Containing the epidemic at the source is of essence. China’s effective response and sacrifice have averted the further spread of the virus in the world. The COVID-19 cases of infections worldwide is far less than 1% of the case count in China, while the H1N1 flu outbreak spread to 214 regions and countries.
China will work more closely with the international community to contain the epidemic in a spirit of openness and transparency and safeguard global public health security. We encourage other countries to follow and act on WHO’s travel and health recommendations. China will continue to take good care of foreign nationals in China like its own. We will stay in close communication with Nigeria and provide updates on latest developments, protect the life and health of the Nigerian nationals in China, thereby safeguarding the health and safety of people in both countries.
Foreign nationals are safe in China. According to the professional evaluation of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros, the safest way for foreign nationals in Wuhan is to stay put and ensure effective self-protection. He has cautioned against hasty movement as it will add more uncertainties. Now confirmed cases have been detected among some foreign evacuees, which increase the risk of further spread. This is what has happened. We still suggest that countries to follow WHO recommendations and educate their nationals to ensure sound protection in accordance to local health regulations.
The majority of the countries including Nigeria understand the opinion of the Chinese government. They have full confidence in and support China’s control efforts. China highly appreciates the deep trust.
Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government and people have withstood the test and won the respect and recognition of the international community with their efforts and even sacrifice. To date, leaders of over 160 countries and international organizations have expressed their sympathy and support through telegrams or letters. The government and peoples of several dozen countries are lending a helping hand. We are truly grateful for these acts of kindness.
The Chinese are a resilient nation that has emerged stronger from numerous trials and tribulations. The bigger the difficulties and challenges China faces, the more cohesion and fighting spirit the Chinese nation demonstrates. With its people united as one under the leadership of the CPC, with China’s institutional strength in mobilizing resources for major undertakings, with strong material and technological capacities and with rich experience, China has the confidence, capacity and determination to not only win a full victory against the epidemic but also meet its economic and social development goals. The fundamentals of China’s long-term economic development remain unchanged and the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic is short-lived. China will surely prevail over this epidemic and emerge stronger and more prosperous.
The health sector is an important area in China-Africa cooperation. China has sent medical teams of altogether 21,000 members to Africa and has treated 220 million African patients. They are deeply respected by local people as some Chinese doctors even sacrificed their lives in this cause.
After the Ebola epidemic raged through Africa in March, 2014, certain countries closed their embassies and evacuated diplomats and citizens from three West African countries hit by the epidemic. By sharp contrast, the Chinese government helped Africa at the earliest time possible. China sent not only urgently needed supplies but also medical teams of over 1,000 military and civilian doctors to areas stricken most severely by the epidemic. Chinese diplomats and medical experts chose to stay there instead of withdrawing. They fought together with local people until the virus was defeated.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, African countries and regional organizations have expressed valuable support through various means. Hardship reveals true friendship. This is a testament to great solidarity between China and Africa in trying times. The epidemic is temporary, but friendship and cooperation are forever.
Recently, the Embassy has been inundated with heartwarming sympathies and good wishes from Nigerian friends. We highly appreciate that the government and good people of Nigeria firmly stand by us in this difficult time. We will always remember the sympathy and support given to us in this battle against the COVID-19.
In the statement of solidarity on February 2, President Muhammadu Buhari thanks Nigerians “for their hospitality towards the Chinese nationals in our midst, and for not letting the coronavirus outbreak create any disturbance or disrupt the peaceful coexistence between us and them.”
Indeed, we are brothers and sisters sharing weal and woe. Together we shall prevail.
•Dr. Zhou is Ambassador of China to Nigeria