By IKENNA EMEWU
The one that started cooking before you must have more discarded and disused utensils – Igbo adage
On March 10, Chinese president, Xi Jinping made triumphant entry into locked down Wuhan to see things for himself.
The world media reported that the visit was greeted with euphoric frenzy by Wuhan residents.
The reports confirned that that signaled victory over the dreaded COVID-19 raging bull. On that same day, Chinese health authorities announced that the last two emergency hospitals built in Wuhan to contain the coronavirus challenge were closed down.
Just the following day, the health authorities daily news update that hits my email every evening from the Chinese Embassy in Abuja brought a message of hope that more than 70% of the COVID-19 patients in the Wuhan epicenter had been discharged after full recovery.
Prior to that, everyday brought an increase in the number of recovered patients that far outstripped the fatality rate, which in all was about 3.4% at the Hubei coronavirus war theatre and far less outside.
Much as the recent developments signpost glimmer of hope, we know the war isn’t over yet, just some silver lining in the horizon, cheering up the rest of the world that COVID-19 can be contained.
I can guess that beyond mere visit to show that the war was headed in the direction of victory, the presence of the Chinese leader must have in addition brought some psychological boost to the morale of the battling army of about 45,000 medics.
He had shored up the zest of his people to soldier on against calamity the first day he stepped out into some health facilities in Beijing to see the people of his country and give them some verve with his presence.
Again, on the International Women’s Day, Xi’s message to about 28,000 women medics that were at the fore of the battle to save lives rang loud and strong. The import was simple – you have a leader and he stands with you this trying moment.
The world followed the trend of the scourge and how China resolutely tackled it and got some messages from the war strategy observers described as transparent especially the way Chinese authorities teamed up with the World Health Organisation (WHO) updating the entire world about the daily developments. I read media report from US that the approach which it said was a sharp departure from how the SARS incident of 2003 was managed, was commendable.
It was a pleasant surprised the first day I got a newsletter from the media office of the Chinese Embassy in Abuja, a tradition that has been sustained till even now I am scripting this piece.
A little before that, the Chinese Embassy in Abuja assembled a large pool of stakeholders including the media, the government, the business and diplomatic community and many others and had hours of deliberations that educated the people with the right information.
The Ambassador, Dr. Zhou Pingjian did the briefing himself with other embassy officials where he updated Nigerians on the factual details of the efforts of China to contain coronavirus, beyond what we read or hear. In that gathering, informed Nigerians and friends of China, yours sincerely inclusive, assisted to explain to other Nigerians the facts of the outbreak and China’s committed efforts.
About a week later, Ambassador Zhou had another parley with Nigerian parents their children are studying in China together with foreign ministry officials. It was comforting to hear the parents tell the media that they were persuaded and more relaxed about the safety of their children after the meeting with the embassy.
China seem to have read the signs vivid that in today’s open communication world, it would be wiser, safer and more productive to report to the world what exactly goes on than allow the world wide web (www) go berserk with misinformation, disinformation, lies and panic. And it really paid.
In interview with Xinhua, I admitted to the news agency that the method and war strategy China adopted has been a light in the dark runnel of the COVID-19 war to the entire world where the spread had got to 112 countries at the last count with over 33,210 infection cases and 872 deaths outside China.
On Wednesday, Japan, China’s neighbour announced taking after China in deploying AI to track infections, isolate victims and in treatment.
Italy had declared a total lockdown of the country of over 60m people, isolation of infected persons after reporting over 300 deaths and 7,800 infections on March 10, taking after the China approach.
And as China seems to come to from the pangs of COVID-19, she has further done something encouraging by standing by other countries to handle the pandemic,
It first announced $20m donation to the WHO in assistance for research and other relevant areas of intervention. Within two days, it had sent six medical workers to Italy and seven to Iraq from the Red Cross team of the country to assist them cope with the challenge. It has also given her words on the willingness of assisting in Africa where the pandemic has luckily not been a major challenge.
These have been commendable of China for not standing aloof and in helplessness and watch the world after pulling out from the calamity. The promises of extending her experience in tackling coronavirus have been quite assuring.
Her anti-coronavirus methods have resonated with all countries, including Nigeria, my country, where the head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced that he was in China to attend a WHO conference involving all countries on how China handled the challenge and the lessons to be taken home.
From the beginning, I saw COVID-19 as outbreak against the entire humanity and not just China reason I wrote an article on February 2, calling on the world to fight the virus rather than fighting the Chinese or some people with prejudices.
Laying credence to the speech of President Xi, it has been a commendable show of resolve by China to tackle the outbreak. Some countries at the beginning blamed the strict measures adopted by China as too stringent, but the lockdown of the entire Italy when the spread got so alarming to curtail further disaster with close to 8,000 reported cases has shown that China possibly adopted the right and efficacious measures.
It was touching when I read a US citizen who was evacuated from China say he felt safer and better in China than in US when he eventually took ill with COVID-19 symptoms.
In Nigeria however, the lessons from China have been adequately applied with a bombard of media sensitisation by the ministries of health at the federal and state levels.
The Nigeria’s Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire on March 9 held a media briefing to report the second coronavirus case in Ogun State, a neighbouring state to Lagos where the first incident was recorded. Within hours of detection of the first case, the government locked down the offices and places the carrier visited and quarantined all the people he had contact with.
Emewu is a journalist and Executive Director, Afri-China Media Centre, Lagos
It also tracked the 120 passengers that arrived Nigeria on a Turkish Air flight that brought the Italian whose case was the first in Nigeria.
After a failed attempt to track down only two of the passengers that hadn’t submitted to the authorities for examination, the government announced their names to the public and declared them wanted. It was another swift measure and a good move that it got 118 of the 120 passengers within hours for quarantine.
The awareness has been successful, and beyond the care taken to forestall a crisis, the government in Abuja budgeted about N1.2b in two tranches to handle the situation even though it hasn’t come to crisis state. Also, Africa’s richest man and Nigerian citizen, Aliko Dangote made an immediate donation of N200m to the government to assist check coronavirus.
Today, most countries of the world fight coronavirus taking a cue from the Chinese tenacious approach and Nigeria is not left out of it. They have adopted precisely the measures China took because the first to experience it has got a better knowldedge on how to maneuver through the situation.
China proved critics wrong who accuse her of hoarding information and living behind an iron curtain where secrets creep and seethe in its coronavirus war.
With her COVID-19 duel experience and information sharing, the world has benefitted from the open information age, and because China didn’t adopt any secrecy option, the new media space was not given the opportunity to run riot with cocktail of frivolity, counter information and lies, which would have done much more damage than even the virus.
Emewu is a journalist and Executive Director, Afri-China Media Centre, Lagos