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Lead by example: China’s role in the global war on Covid-19 pandemic

CAPTION: Staff member Li Yueguo (right) delivers goods to a resident at a community in Shulan, northeast China's Jilin Province, May 20, 2020. Shulan, a county-level city in northeast China's Jilin Province, on Monday imposed complete closed-off management for local residential communities with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, basically allowing no people to come in and go out without authorization. The stores and supermarkets are responsible for delivering daily necessities. (Xinhua/Zhang Nan).

NEARLY five months have passed since Covid-19 was first reported in central China Wuhan city. According to the statistics of WHO, the deadly virus has spread worldwide with more than 4.7 million people infected and some 330,000 people killed as of May 21.

Thanks to the unprecedented efforts and the great sacrifices made by China and its people, the Covid-19 pandemic has been under control in the country, with single-digit new confirmed cases being reported during the past several days. 

On the contrary, the situation in the developed West is awful. The number of confirmed cases in the US is close to 1.5 million, which accounts for 31% of the world total. As to May 21, the number of deaths relating to Covid-19 has reached 90,203 in the US, which is higher than the number of infections in China (84,507), and much higher than US military’s death toll in the Vietnam War (nearly 60,000).

In the UK, the number of infections is three times that of China, and the number of deaths is six times higher than China’s deaths from the pandemic. In Sweden, a country with a population of merely 10.31 million, the number of Covid-19 fatalities is as high as 3,831 as of May 21.

China has done a good job in treating Covid-19 patients as well. According to China’s official statistics, in Wuhan city, 94% of the Covid-19 patients have been cured, and the cure rate of severe cases is as high as 89%.

Though a little awkward at the beginning of the outbreak, China has swiftly changed the situation by building more hospitals and dispatching tens of thousands of medical workers to Hubei province, center of the epidemic. Many of its measures, such as lockdown of Wuhan city, ban on outbound traffic in Hubei province,  suspension of public transport in Wuhan and other heavily affected cities, have been proved very effective and emulated in other parts of the world. 

Regarding people’s lives and health as its top priority, the China government has timely adjusted its policies relating to medical insurance and fiscal subsidies to ensure proper treatment of every Covid-19 patient.

According to China’s official statistics, by 6 April, the average medical expenses of each Covid-19 patient are RMB 21,500 yuan (equivalent to 7.17 m/-), and those of the severe cases have exceeded RMB 150,000 yuan (equivalent to 50 m/-). All those expenses are covered by medical insurance and government subsidy, with no financial burden falling on the patients. 

Besides effective epidemic control and proper treatment of Covid-19 patients at home, China has been actively conducting anti-epidemic cooperation with other countries and international organizations. Starting from 3 January, China has been regularly informing the WHO, relevant countries and regions about the Covid-19 outbreak.

On 12 January, China publicly shared the genetic sequence of the new virus, which enabled the US and other countries to develop testing kits and vaccines.
To reciprocate other countries’ support to China when China was struggling to tackle the epidemic, China started to offer assistance to foreign countries that are heavily affected by Covid-19 since early March, including South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain and many others.

Up to mid-May, China has dispatched 24 expert teams to 22 countries to assist their fight against the pandemic, and donated a tremendous amount of medical supplies to over 150 countries and international organizations.

Several days ago, Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania Ms. Wang Ke handed over China’s official anti-epidemic donation to Tanzania, which includes masks, protective clothing, goggles, infrared thermometers, etc. with a total value of RMB 2,150,000 yuan (equivalent to 717 m/-).

On behalf of President John Pombe Magufuli and the Tanzanian government, Prof. Mabula Mchembe, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, received the donation with heartfelt gratitude. Prior to that, the same amount of supplies was handed over to Zanzibar by the Chinese Consulate General in the Isles.

At the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly held on 18 May, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to provide $2 billion over two years to help with Covid-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing ones.

He stressed that to help developing countries, especially African countries, build public health capacity should be the top priority of the international community, and to achieve that, China will work with other G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries.

He also promised that Covid-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, to ensure vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

As African countries are struggling with the dual challenges of epidemic control and economic development, China’s assistance and commitment are timely and encouraging. Actually China is leading the global fight against Covid-19 by setting an excellent example.

Indeed we are grateful for the support and leadership provided by China, which will help the African countries to win the battle against the pandemic and protect their economy. 

(The writer is a lecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Dar es Salaam.)

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