By Owei Lakemfa
Coronavirus: LI WENLIANG, 34 was an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, China. In December 2019, he noticed seven cases of a virus that he thought looked like Sars. The victims were said to come from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. Then he slowly realised that this virus was a strange one.
On December 30, he posted a message on a doctors’ chat group warning them that: “A new coronavirus infection has been confirmed and its type is being identified. Inform all family and relatives to be on guard.” He advised they wear protective clothing to avoid infection. Skeptical authorities thought he was raising a false alarm and the Public Security Bureau gave him a letter which read: “We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice…”
Despite his conviction, Li Wenliang like a good soldier never abandoned his duty post. The virus was also cunning and ruthless; there was no way to tell where it was and how it could be detected. Just a week after he was warned, he treated a woman with glaucoma unaware she had been infected. So in spite of his early awareness and warning, the young doctor caught the virus. On January 10, he began coughing, next day, he had fever. As the authorities became conscious that Li had been right and started to fight the unknown enemy, they apologised to him. But it was too late for him. His parents were also affected. On January 20, China declared the outbreak of the virus and an emergency.
After several tests for the coronavirus came back negative, the one on January 30, was positive. Li posted: “Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed.” The young medical general leading the war against the virus fell in battle. So did many of his medical colleagues, including Dr. Liu Zhiming, Director of the Wuchang Hospital. That was how Coronavirus (Covid-19) stole into our lives virtually undetected and throwing the entire world into panic and a frenzy to find a cure and a vaccine.
Now, China is a factory ceaselessly running to lubricate the human economy. So, its slow down by the Coronavirus is not just a Chinese challenge, but a worldwide one. With its 20 percent slice of the human population, the country effectively takes care of 1.35 billion people, especially in meeting basic human needs. In terms of humanity’s fight against poverty, China alone, according to the World Bank, has lifted over 850 million human beings out of poverty with the poverty rate in the country falling from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015.
Also, given its increasing centrality in world economy, there is no way China slows down that the world will not do the same. If China were to grind to a halt, many parts of the universe will be adversely affected. In other words, China has become a vital organ of the human anatomy. So no part of the world should rejoice about the Coronavirus as its negative effects on the phenomenal Chinese economic development will not translate to sustainable advantage.
In fact, humanity should be grateful to China for its decisive interventions to contain the virus, including its unprecedented lockdown of towns and cities and measures which affected about 500 million people. I am not sure any country in the world can match the supersonic speed with which China built two completely new hospitals; the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan and 1,600-bed Leishenshan hospitals within twelve days to cater for the Coronavirus victims. As the Xinhua News Agency described the feat, it was: “Mission impossible made possible.”
In another such move, the China Construction First Group decided to convert within six days, an industrial building in Beijing into a factory that can churn out 250,000 masks daily to meet the high demands. The factory is expected to become operational from tomorrow. The country also converted exhibition centres and sports halls into makeshift medical sites in its determined effort to control, then conquer the virus.
The origin of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has not been ascertained. There are unverified claims that it originated from the alleged Chinese habit of eating anything on land, in the waters and in the sky. For this, some unverified and derisive videos have been posted. There are also conspiracy theories that the virus is some biological warfare against China or even emanating from the country itself. Whatever be the origins, what should be clear to all humanity is that the world has become so globalised that what affects a section of humanity cannot but spread to other humans. Constantly increasing figures show that the virus has affected some 74,850 Chinese, including about 3,000 medical workers with 2004 deaths mostly in the Hubei province and Wuhan, its capital.
There is the possibility that the virus after waning in China might like a devastating hurricane make landfall in other parts of the world. So, a concerted and collective human response to Covid-19 such as the one the World Health Organisation, WHO, is coordinating, is required.
What we are witnessing is an unprecedented human calamity which like HIV/AIDS endangers the entire humanity, and like the latter, we need to collectively fight a common enemy. In this, we need to discourage the pharmaceutical giants whose voracious and insatiable appetite for profit can lead to the pricing of drugs out of the reach of the poor, or poor nations as it did with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
China is our first, and perhaps, most effective line of defence against the Coronavirus; it is in our collective interests to assist it focus on the fight rather than carry out vile, potentially destructive propaganda against that country because the virus is bias-free and ideologically-blind. In one of the earliest campaigns against that country that went virile, it was claimed that China was seeking the approval of the courts to kill over 20,000 Coronavirus patients as a way of checking the virus!
There are positive signs that the virus will soon be defeated given lower rates of infection in China and about 14,000 previous victims fully recovered. In Africa, the WHO announced that the previously confirmed victim in Egypt is recovering fast with latest tests showing he is “no longer carrying the virus”. A world united will defeat Covid-19 sooner than later.