World fighting a common public health battle: China Daily editorial

We have heard repeated advice against panicking, since overreacting to the spread of the novel coronavirus may induce unnecessary, difficult-to-justify restrictions on civil liberties and essential economic vitality, especially amid the prevailing pessimism about the state of national and global economies.

The president of the United States, for one, has downplayed it, challenging people to compare the 22 deaths in the US attributed to the virus to last year’s 37,000 from the common flu. Life and the economy should go on, he urged.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, concurred: “This is not Ebola, this is not SARS, this is not some science fiction movie come to life. The hysteria here is way out of line with the actuality and the facts.”

The different perceptions stem from it being an “uneven epidemic” as Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described it.

But while overreacting might prove unnecessarily costly, underestimating the seriousness of this public health threat could prove equally damaging.

China’s initial success in containing the epidemic at home and its overseas spread offer proof that the virus can be contained. But we are in this together — no country can be safe until we all are.

That nearly all newly confirmed infections in China are “imported cases” is a fresh reminder that it is too early for China to celebrate, and also of how easy it would be for the virus to gain a foothold outside Hubei province without constant vigilance.

Sadly we have been alerted to basic commonness of our globalized world today in such a devastating way.

The trajectory of the epidemic’s global spread, its successes and failures in localizing on foreign soil, offers credible evidence that those who take it seriously, and respond in a timely and decisive manner will emerge less bruised from the encounter.

That is a lesson everybody should learn from the tragic experiences of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Initial misreading of the severity of the situation, bureaucratic red tape and poor preparedness combined to subject the city of over 10 million to a brutal battle to contain the virus.

That Italy, the first country to declare a state of emergency, has now become the hardest-hit country outside China may also have to do with initial vigilance not being matched with timely follow-ups.

With the number of confirmed cases continuing to rise in Europe, where it is now upwards of 9,000 in Italy and Germany, France and Spain have more than 1,000 confirmed cases each, there is an imperative need for all European nations to respond to French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for coordinated actions. And such a coordinated response should cover all nations, with or without EU membership.

As the threat of a pandemic is now “very real” according to the WHO, it is imperative that all countries employ a comprehensive strategy to control their epidemics and push this virus back.

As the WHO head stated, this would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled. But to do that requires countries find and test all suspected cases and trace the contacts of those infected, not only to protect their own people, but also others.

 

Source: Chinadaily