Covid-19: Has China failed the world?

US President Donald Trump has been repeatedly accusing China of not informing the world adequately and in time about the seriousness of the Coronavirus outbreak in China, which has caught several countries unaware

N S Venkataraman Mar 24, 2020
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US President Donald Trump has been repeatedly accusing China of not informing the world adequately and in time about the seriousness of the Coronavirus outbreak in China, which has caught several countries unaware.  According to Trump, due to lack of information from China, the world was not prepared to face this dreaded virus. While Trump’s critics claim he is being “uncharitable in his views” by holding China responsible for the rapid worldwide spread of this virus, the fact is that there appears to be considerable truth in what Trump has said. Instead of replying to Trump’s charge with facts and figures, China is simply accusing Trump of making false allegations.

The fact and ground reality is that Coronavirus originated in the Wuhan region of China and spread rapidly to several parts of China. It is agreed that China fought against the Covid-19 on its own, without seeking support from elsewhere. In the process, several thousands of Chinese citizens living in China suffered and more than 3,000 lost their lives.

Many multinational companies from Europe, USA and other developed countries have set up large numbers of factories, research centres and trade offices in different parts of China, other than Shanghai and Beijing. Many developing and underdeveloped countries too have trade outfits in China.  Therefore, many families from other countries live in China and have been traversing through China for business and tourism. International travellers and businessmen have frequently flown in and out of China. Additionally, Chinese businessmen and tourists frequently travel to other parts of the world in large numbers and frequently. Obviously, they carried the virus from China to other parts of the world. 

Realising  this situation, the Chinese government should have warned other countries and the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the situation and asked them to take preventive measures and exercise due caution. The Chinese government has not done this.

It is well known that mainland China is a “closed country” for all practical purposes, with  information about happenings in China hard to get. The Chinese media is severely suppressed and their citizens and the outside world receive only official communication from the government, with little accessibility to verify the news.

While the dreaded virus has spread to other parts of the world causing deaths and suffering, Chinese government now claims that it has “conquered the virus” and brought the situation within China under control. If so, China’s government has not cared to share information about how it controlled the situation and “drove out the virus”. Little is known about the strategies it has adopted. While some people doubt whether China has really brought the situation under control and, if so, to what extent, many think China must have adopted draconian measures and forced the people to remain indoors.

Now, some vague claims have been made by Chinese government that it has developed a drug/ vaccine to treat the coronavirus but there is no conclusive proof that it has done so, and no clinical trial results have been announced.

If China had warned the world about the impending coronavirus disaster when it happened in Wuhan in November/ December, 2019, worldwide efforts could have started at the right time to develop a suitable drug/vaccine.

Since massive outbreaks of viral disease happen only in China, any new drug developed could be tested only in China to ascertain its efficacy and usefulness. By not sharing it’s experience with other countries and the WHO or opening its territory to international researchers to study the issues in depth and develop remedial measures, China certainly stands accused of letting down the world’s citizens.

Now, huge research efforts are being made across the world to find a drug/vaccine to treat coronavirus, which has already spread to a very serious level across the world.
The WHO, which is supposed to monitor health issues across the world, indicates that it also lacks credible information on the matter. Though the WHO has not accused China of keeping it in the dark, it is very obvious that is the case.

As the Chinese government has done grave damage to the world, at least now, better late than never, it should call a world conference of medical researchers to share its experience and the information at its command to find a way to save the world community from further disaster.

Trump has the courage to openly say that China’s government has failed in its duty to forewarn the world about the dreaded coronavirus. The Chinese government should view Trump’s charges in proper perspective and act responsibly to fulfil its obligations to the world’s people.

(The writer is Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai)

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