This past week, over 600 million Chinese nationals took to the roads, train stations and airports to celebrate the Golden Week holiday, in yet another demonstration of the anti-epidemic strides Beijing has made against the Covid-19 global pandemic.
In Wuhan City where the virus was first reported, authorities introduced night tours to cope with thousands of local tourists who thronged the historic Yellow Crane Tower. The city which hit the headlines as the epicentre of outbreak has turned the corner; with universities in Wuhan relaxing movement restrictions for students as industrial activity also roars back.
The enthusiasm for the Golden Week festivities was further hoisted by China’s economic rebound. Revenue streams from domestic tourism in the week were estimated above US$ 66.9 billion by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. As economic activity gathers pace, the World Bank now estimates that China is the only major economy that will register positive growth in 2020.
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The pandemic situation in many parts of the world is however, not as enlivening as in Beijing. In the United States, President Donald Trump was this past week hospitalised with Covid-19 disease. As millions enjoyed a new sense of freedom across China, the US leader was confined to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre for medical observation. So far, over 210, 000 Americans have been killed by the virus which has now camped at the White House.
In much of Europe, apprehension over new waves of the virus is intensifying. The British government is mulling restricting access to pubs and restaurants in high infection areas. In Germany, experts warn that uncontrolled spread of the virus could be in the horizon. India’s coronavirus caseload is equally inching towards number one slot in the world.
While African has posted relatively fewer infections and deaths from coronavirus, with only 5 per cent of global cases and 3.5 per cent of deaths, the continent’s economies are battered by the pandemic.
In a new World Bank report, up to 40 million people across the continent are on the verge of slipping into extreme poverty. To spring back, the IMF exhorts African countries to spend 1 per cent of the GDP in public investments; a toll order, given the problem of public and private debt in many jurisdictions.
These challenges clearly demonstrate the need for enhanced efforts to cushion countries against the sting of the virus. As the WHO boss Tedros Adhanom recently reminded the world, only through synergy and global cooperation can planet Earth mount an effective and sustainable response against the global health crisis.
The recent move by the Global Partnership under the auspices of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator platform to make available 120 million rapid testing kits for low and middle income economies is certainly welcome. Helping every country to manage the virus is in the interest of humanity as a whole.
Also a big win for the international efforts to contain the pandemic was this week’s decision by China to join the vaccine distribution programme, COVAX, alongside 171 other countries.
China’s latest move affirms Beijing’s support for multilateralism; even as Washington gives the initiative a wide berth. China has in the past pledged US$ 2 billion dollars towards WHO while having financial, material and epidemic control footprints in dozens of countries spread across the world.
As the world awaits a vaccine against the Covid-19 disease, it is essential that countries prepare their populations more towards control and prevention, than treatment. The experience of China and other jurisdictions that have substantially flattened the curve, indicates that the general behaviour of the population towards the virus has direct implications on infections and deaths.
Social distancing measures, personal hygiene and wearing of masks remain strong and complementary methods to testing, isolation and treatment in the fight against the pandemic.
-The writer is a scholar of international relations with a focus on China-Africa relations