GUEST Column by ZHOU PINGJIAN
By Zhou Pingjian
Wuhan, the hardest hit Chinese city by the COVID-19 outbreak, will lift outbound travel restrictions from April 8. Other areas in Hubei Province have already lifted outbound transportation restrictions since March 25.
As the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, with over 50000 confirmed cases and 2500 deaths, accounts for nearly 61% and 77% of the total confirmed cases and deaths, respectively, in the Chinese mainland. One month ago, several thousand of new infections reported everyday in Wuhan.With over three months’ struggle and sacrifices, Wuhan recently reports no newly confirmed cases for days.
This marks a notable turning point in the city’s months-long battle with the virus and sending a message of hope to a world grappling with the pandemic. As the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros pointed out, “Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe situation can be turned around.”
All across China, the situation in beating the COVID-19 pandemic is moving steadily in a positive direction. Life and work are quickly returning to normal.
How China did it? You may wonder. C.H.I.N.A did it, I should say.
C: Curbing the transmission.
Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province with a population of over 11 million, is the major transportation hub and the most populous city in Central China. On January 23, the government decided to block off Wuhan’s transport system — or what we refer to as launching the lockdown of the city. Till the upcoming lift on April 8, the people in Wuhan will have been staying at home for 76 days.
At the beginning, some people might become disgruntled about the decisions made to quarantine infectious groups, suspend public transport operations in Wuhan and block off all contacts between the epicenter and the rest of the country. But the continuous trend for better situation in China have proved that the lockdown of Wuhan is a least costly and most effective approach to quarantine the infections and cut off every possible method and channel, containing the pandemic at its source and from spreading further.
H: highest priority.
On January 25, the first day of Chinese Lunar New Year, while we were celebrating together the Abuja Temple Fair inside the China Culture Center, President Xi Jinping chaired a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. He heard reports on the prevention and control of the outbreak and decided in the meeting to set up a CPC Central Committee leading group to oversee the work, and also send groups to Hubei province and other hard-hit regions to direct the work on the ground. Holding a meeting on the Spring Festival, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which has traditionally been a happy time for family reunions and other gatherings, is for the first time ever in New China’s history.
Since the outbreak, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee has convened eight meetings within three months to guide and ensure the effective deployment of pandemic prevention and control. The State Council made arrangements for the prevention and control of the outbreak with measures typically used for category-A infectious diseases even though the outbreak has been classified as a category-B infectious disease. All 31 provincial-level regions in China’s mainland launched a first-level emergency response – the highest level for a public health emergency. All levels of finance departments have allocated over 116.9 billion yuan (US$16.6 billion) for virus prevention and control efforts nationwide. On February 3 and 8, the 1000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital and 1500-bed Leishenshan Hospital were put into use respectively. Both of the makeshift hospitals were built in less than 10 days. With the rapid completion of another 16 temporary hospitals, the number of hospital beds in Wuhan rose from 5,000 to 23,000 in a few days.
I: International cooperation.
China is by no means alone in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the WHO deployed a high-level mission including 25 international experts to China to conduct field research on the prevention and control of COVID-19 from February 16 to 24. “The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Ihekweazu was one of ten global health leaders invited by the WHO to visit China and understudy their response approach. Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programs in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimized,” Said President Muhammad Buhari in his public speech on March 29.
By sharing the genome sequencing of the virus at the earliest opportunity as well as the control and treatment experience without reservation, China has won admiration and support from the international community. Leaders of over 170 countries and heads of more than 50 international and regional organizations have sent messages of support and 79 countries and 10 international organizations have provided medical supplies to China.
President Buhari made a statement of solidarity on February 2, “China’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus have been exemplary, as well as the country’s collaboration with international agencies and other countries on the matter.” Indeed, China received strong political support and assistance in various means from the Government and good people of Nigeria at the most difficult moment in our fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. Such expressions of friendship boost our confidence in no small measure and will always be remembered and cherished by the Chinese people.
N: Nationwide efforts.
Ms Li Hui, a nurse born after 1995, joined the battle in Wuhan without her parents’ knowledge and said she would donate her body to research should the worst happen. Ms Zhao Peiyu, head of the nursing group of the medical team sent by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in support of Hubei province, said that more than 930 nurses had signed up to go to Wuhan. Their reasons are simple and pure, some said they had experience in treating SARS, some said they are a member of the CPC, some said they do not have too much family burden. These are just epitomes of all 43,000 medical workers from 340 medical teams who had been dispatched from all across China to Hubei province, Wuhan in particular, since the outbreak.
By fighting the pandemic with concerted efforts, Hubei and Wuhan, the hardest-hit areas in China, received full-scale support nationwide timely. The National Health Commission and the Wuhan health authorities hold daily briefings to keep the public updated. 4,000 military medics were quickly dispatched to Wuhan. Nineteen provinces paired up with the cities in Hubei to provide one-on-one support. The communities in the whole country played an important role to identify the people, record their information for community management, and closely observe their health condition.
A: All-society mobilization.
In an interview shortly after his return to Abuja, Dr. Ihekweazu shared his observations, “There are several valuable lessons from China’s response to this outbreak. An important aspect is the whole of society approach, where both government and individuals are playing critical roles. Everyone sees the control of the outbreak as a personal responsibility and this is an important lesson for us in Nigeria.”
Indeed. Take Olatoye Babatunde, a 24-year-old Nigerian student in Nanjing. He has become an internet celebrity recently. Many Chinese people gave likes online to the photoes of his volunteer assistance to medical workers as they treat patients of COVID-19. At China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), 13 international students including one Nigerian formed a volunteer team to serve international students. “We are foreigners, but we are not strangers, ” they said. As foreigners in China, all of them have done a good part in the battle against the outbreak.
To say nothing of the Chinese people themselves. With the perseverance and devotion and in response to the government’s call, they stayed indoors, all wore masks, kept social distance and sacrificed their normal lives in order to contain the spread of the virus. The people in Wuhan, in particular, have borne the biggest burden and paid the biggest price. The outbreak of the pandemic in China has been effectively controlled in less than three months, behind which are the efforts of everyone in the whole society.
Major infectious disease is the enemy of all. For now, the COVID-19 outbreak is spreading worldwide, posing enormous threat to life and health and bringing formidable challenge to global public health security. It is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response.
We have full confidence in Nigeria’s determination and capacity to defeat the pandemic ultimately. China firmly supports Nigeria’s fight against the virus and stands ready to assist, if needed, to the best of its capacity. Despite the daunting task of epidemic control remaining at home, China will try its best to provide medical supplies to Nigeria and do whatever it could to support Nigeria. We have set up the online COVID-19 knowledge center (https://covid19.21wecan.com/) that is open to all. We will continue to share information and experience with Nigeria, and strengthen cooperation on containment, treatment and vaccines in response to the COVID-19 challenge, with a view to building together a community of shared health for mankind.
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)