When COVID-19 was wreaking havoc across the globe, when the world was overwhelmed by the impact of the pandemic, when many economies shutdown, and when hope was almost lost, the only hope was how to get a vaccine in real, quick time.
It was almost a hopeless, desperate situation as governments and health institutions raced against time to get a vaccine and ultimately a cure for the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unmitigated suffering on many developing economies, most of whom depend on outflows from China and the West.
Thankfully, the vaccines that were manufactured months after the outbreak helped save millions of lives.
In the battle against the deadly virus, two things stood out- good leadership and the observance of COVID-19 protocols, which encapsulates wearing of nose masks, washing of hands, keeping of social distance and application of hand sanitizers.
Closure of borders lasted for over a year and a half and eventually most countries opened for business. Meanwhile, China kept its borders under tight regulations until this January. The decision by the Chinese government to open widerfor business was met with criticisms from some countries due to spikes in new COVID-19 cases recorded in the Chinese mainland.
Ironically, when China imposed strict COVID-19 prevention and control measures at the peak of the pandemic, some members of the international community did not mince words in critcising China for what they called “draconian” restrictions.
China has always insisted that the imposition of health protocols in the country is backed by science and data.
During that period, visitors, including Chinese citizens abroad, undergo mandatory quarantine for at least two weeks when they arrive in China. Aside that, the country has introduced time-tested contact-tracing method to ensure infected people do not spread the disease.
This quarantine is the most rigorous preventive measure that have helped saved countless lives of Chinese citizens and those of visitors. The Chinese have never compromised on safety and, so, the laid-down protocols on COVID-19 prevention is applied to the letter.
Having lived in China for almost five months in 2022, I can say it’s safe to conclude that China’s approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is arguably the best in the world.
I took the swab test everyday during my 10-day quarantine at Grand Hotel in Xiamen city before I left for Beijing. I wondered how serious and determined the people had taken the fight against the disease. And even in Beijing, my colleagues and I took daily COVID-19 test at a designated station in the residence.
No doubt, the country has succeeded in cracking the back of the virus.
This makes it extremely difficult to accept the position of some media, and those of China’s vile critics against the easing of restrictions in China.
One of the ridiculous allegations is that China is under-reporting COVID-19 deaths. But those who make these allegations have not given any evidence to substantiate the allegations. Perhaps, it is part of the deliberate, mischievous propaganda to tarnish the image of China.
China has stated that it operated an open door system whereby it engaged the rest of the world about COVID-19.
According to the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, preliminary figures show that since COVID was first reported, China and WHO have had over 60 technical exchanges on COVID containment, treatment, vaccine research and development and origin-tracing.
After recently refining its COVID response measures, China has held several technical meetings with the WHO. I would like to briefly go over these meetings:
On December 9, 2022, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) held a special meeting with the WHO Representative Office in China, during which the NHC informed the WHO of the containment and treatment of the disease in that country.
On December 30, 2022, China and the WHO held another technical meeting on COVID-19. The two sides exchanged views on the current COVID situation, clinical care, vaccination and other technical issues. Chinese experts shared in detail the background and basis for the policy refinement and provided a comprehensive update on the current situation in China.
On January 3, 2023, China, at the invitation of the WHO, sent experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to a meeting of the WHO Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution, where they provided a comprehensive update on the recent developments and COVID variants in China.
On January 5, 2023, WHO held a briefing with member-states. China asked relevant experts to attend the meeting, where they further informed the WHO of epidemic containment in China in detail and responded to technical issues of concern to other parties.
Besides all these, recently, China’s relevant departments have shared the genome data of the virus from COVID cases in China via the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).
So, China has been honest and transparent all through with information sharing in its engagement with the WHO.
It’s, therefore, trite that some countries had expressed disquiet about China’s decision to ease restrictions, while many others welcomed the decision for good reasons.
Before the pandemic, China was the world’s largest market for outbound travel, which had grown from 4.5 million travellers in 2000 to 150 million in 2018. The country is also the world’s largest spender, accounting for $277 billion or 16 per cent of the world’s total $ 1.7 trillion international tourism spending, according to UN’s World Tourism Organization.
China alone contributed 51 per cent of the travel and tourism GDP in the Asia-Pacific region in 2018, according to the World Tourism Council.And Chinese travellers typically accounted for 30 per cent of travels in Thailand.
But now that they are ready to travel again, much of the world is exhibiting anxiousness surrounding their return due to the COVID-19 situation in their country.
Multiple destinations, including the US, Australia, the UK and Japan, are adding certain COVID-19 testing requirements for passengers flying in from China, either directly or via a third country.
It is therefore untenable that the country providing leadership in the fight against the pandemic is now bearing the brunt and hypocrisy of the world.
China has achieved so much for itself and the world in the last four decades. Currently, China is second largest economy in the world. The country’s foreign policy is based on mutual respect and shared prosperity. China may not have everything it does right, but given the unprecedented level of development in every sphere of its endeavours, no amount of mudslinging can stop the country whose focus is to become the number one in science, technology, innovation and research.
The world needs China now more than ever and the least the world can do is to be fair and honest.
[The writer is a senior international journalist who specialises in climate change, international relations, energy, crime and justice.]
BY MALIK SULLEMANA