Was the Chinese Government’s Response to the Coronavirus Appropriate?

by Alex Leong

This new strain of Coronavirus has been a point of controversy both within China and the international community. In January, as the virus continued to spread, people pointed fingers towards the Chinese government. They accused the government of a cover-up, an insufficient response, and even with conspiracy theories about a biological attack. A storm of anti-Chinese sentiment erupted throughout the world, politicizing the disease. Despite all the accusations against the Chinese government, was their response really that inappropriate? The answer is yes and no.

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The first Coronavirus case was reported towards late December 2019, in Wuhan, China. The first death happened on January 11th. It wasn’t until January 23rd that the Central Government ordered a lockdown of Wuhan city as well as various cities around Hubei province. Not to mention, during the early stages of the Coronavirus breakout, the local Wuhan city government was in charge of containment, but they did not do a good job in terms of communication, monitoring, and improvising the containment. The government had underestimated the severity of the virus and even attempted to silence the late Dr. Li Wen Liang who was whistleblowing about the virus. Furthermore, they turned a blind eye towards the illegal sale of animals in the Wuhan wet markets, an example of purposeful negligence that could have been a factor in spreading the virus.

By mid-January, the central Chinese government had realized the severity of the virus and began taking all measures to control it. The whole nation turned their attention towards fighting the “devil-like” virus. In response, the Central Chinese government fired the secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee as well as various high-level communist party officials, and the Wuhan city along with the entire Hubei province was placed on lockdown; no one could enter or leave the province without permission. These measures were described as “draconian” and “warlike”. Effectively, the Chinese government grounded and quarantined over 57 million people—an action that had never been accomplished before. Shelters and hospitals were immediately erected throughout the month of January in efforts to ease the pressure hospitals were facing.
As the death toll continued to swell, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus a global health emergency on January 30th. As the virus raged into February, social control was also introduced in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Towards the middle of February, there has been a reported drop in the number of fatalities—and we hope that the virus has already reached its peak.

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Despite the lack of attention given to the Coronavirus during the end of 2019, the Chinese government has answered with an unprecedented response. Fully locking down cities with a total population of almost 60 million people, building hospitals in record time, and mobilizing the entire nation to defend themselves against the virus has won the Chinese much praise from many nations along with the World Health Organization. It is also important to remember that an overwhelming majority of Coronavirus cases have been reported within mainland China, the bulk being in Hebei province. As of February 19, only 4 out of the 2,010 fatalities resulting from the virus occurred outside of China.

Sources:

Taylor, Derrick Bryson. “A Timeline of the Coronavirus.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/02/13/world/coronavirus-timeline.html.

“Coronavirus Risk in ‘Closed’ Environment as China Death Toll Exceeds 2,000.” South China Morning Post, 19 Feb. 2020, www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3051250/coronavirus-mainland-death-toll-hits-2000-132-more-fatalities.

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