Health

Hubei Province in China Finally Breathes a Sigh of Relief. Will It Last?

Image Credit The Washington Times

After weeks of quarantine – including widespread lockdowns that, to much of the world at the initial stage, perhaps seemed excessive – Wuhan, and the broader Hubei province have shown that the measures were effective.

China has seen the daily numbers of new cases drop considerably, to a point approaching zero on some days, and yesterday, achieved what seemed impossible just a couple of weeks ago: 24 hours with no new cases of Covid-19.

Now, this isn’t to say that China is in the clear. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the time for incredible vigilance, in fact, to reduce the risk of a second wave of the outbreak. Public health experts urge continued social distancing and good personal hygiene habits.

As the Covid-19 crisis shifts from China to Europe and, increasingly, the United States, a contingent of frontline medical workers left Wuhan. The people of that city doubtlessly owe these tireless teams of workers a debt of gratitude.

It must be said that, although China made some initial missteps back in December, when the virus was first identified, they righted the ship quickly, right down to mapping the virus’s genome and sharing their findings with public health agencies around the world. Implementing city-wide lockdowns, quarantining tens of millions of citizens, and taking extraordinary steps to control the spread of the coronavirus, China’s actions certainly hold some valuable lessons for Western countries – lessons that it is hoped are being taken to heart.

One prominent Westerner who is infamously prone to never learning lessons, of course, is US President Donald Trump. After weeks of dismissing the threat of the virus’s spread, lying repeatedly to the American public, and undermining his own administration’s experts, Trump has now shifted gears and reverted to his well-worn playbook strategy: Blame someone else. He first tried blaming the media, his favourite target. When that didn’t really stick, he called on his old friend xenophobia and openly blamed China.

Despite heaping praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping as recently as a month ago (“I spoke with President Xi and they’re working very, very hard and I think it’s going to all work out fine,” Trump said on February 11), now he is squarely placing all the blame on China for allowing the virus to spread.

“It could have been stopped right where it came from, China, if we would have known about it,” Trump said yesterday. “But now, the whole world, almost, is inflicted with this horrible — with this horrible virus, and it’s too bad.”

He is also making a point of calling the disease “the Chinese virus” despite impassioned pleas from experts, lawmakers, and even some in his administration to not do so, as it’s a racist dog-whistle and puts Asian Americans and indeed many of Asian descent anywhere in the world at danger of persecution, unfair blame, and even violence. As is typical with Trump, however, he doesn’t listen to anyone. Photos from a recent press conference showed his notes with “coronavirus” crossed out and “Chinese virus” handwritten above it. This disgraceful tactic is no accident and many Americans are calling on Trump to stop it.

As for us here in Malaysia, we are now well into Day 3 of the Movement Control Order, which for all intents and purposes, is effectively a lockdown. We are not alone, however. Argentina has just taken similar steps, and the US state of California, whose population far exceeds Malaysia’s, has also now handed down to all its residents the same directive we have here:

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