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The Covid fight should unite, not divide the world

WHILE MANY WESTERN countries have continued to agonise over how to combat COVID-19, the pandemic is putting China under the spotlight as never before. The country has become the envy of many countries still struggling with a fresh wave of new cases, yet some western nations are turning to their old playbook of smearing China.

China has made the fight against COVID-19 a nationwide effort. The pandemic first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but the nation has also been the first place to have overcome it, and restored its economy to an impressive rate of positive growth this year.

‘A coronavirus-free world and global economic recovery will be achievable only if the world battles the pandemic as one.’

The national-level coordination and widespread public confidence in the authorities’ measures against COVID-19 have been crucial to China’s success in containing the pandemic. The country has realized that a coronavirus-free world and global economic recovery will be achievable only if the world battles the pandemic as one.

To that end, China provided more than 750 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 100 nations, particularly to impoverished third world countries, to push for better global response against the pandemic. 

Sinovac arrives in the Philippines: Local Ministry of Health picture

As mentioned above, China was the first major victim of the pandemic and paid high price in containing it. Yet despite being so populous, the authorities have kept infection numbers to single or two-digit figures daily by quarantining arrivals, mass testing, vigorous contact tracing, lockdowns, travel curbs and other measures.

China has battled the coronavirus with bravado, determination and efficiency that state leadership and local officials should be given credit for. 

In recent months, a debate over the origin of COVID-19 escalated after numerous pieces of evidence suggested that the first cases were actually not found in China but possibly in Italy. The recent re-testing of dozens of blood samples of Italian patients suggested the infection may have been circulating in Italy in October 2019, two months before anyone knew about the virus in Wuhan. 

Allegations about lab-leaks

This is a time of enormous human suffering, yet some in the west have still wagged their fingers at China on the pandemic. From the beginning, some western countries even fabricated information about the virus leaking from Wuhan’s virology laboratory. Such finger-pointing not only hampers global joint efforts against the pandemic, but also threatens to shatter millions of lives.

Wuhan Institute of Virology: Picture by Ureem/ Wikicommons

Conspicuously, there is not yet any substantial evidence for the alleged virus leak from a laboratory in Wuhan. When WHO-appointed scientists conducted a site visit to Wuhan in their investigation of the virus’s origin early this year, the conclusion was clear-cut: they said it was highly unlikely that the virus could have leaked from the virology laboratory.

Yet, the world’s leading health body seems to have abandoned the specialists’ findings after WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for revisit to Wuhan and stressed an inspection of its laboratory was necessary to rule out the possibility of virus being leaked.

WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; picture by Monaco/ Wikicommons

We cannot help but ask whether there are political factors at play? The move has fuelled suspicion that western countries have a clear end goal of stoking up the hypothesis of the so-called lab leak as a political manoeuvre.

Above all, it does not adhere to the spirit of science for WHO and some western leaders to advocate a second phase of origin-tracing in China. Why did WHO experts not raise the possibility of lab leak in its first visit ? Any queries or worries should have been highlighted after the specialists’ mission trip in January this year. WHO’s release of new and contradictory messages six months after the trip are counterproductive in identifying the source of the novel virus. 

Deliberate distraction

Smearing China has been a ploy to deflect the blame from western nations’ bad responses to the pandemic. At the start of this year, Americans originally held high hopes for US President Joe Biden to adopt a science-based anti-COVID pandemic approach, as opposed to his predecessor Donald Trump’s irrational antics.

‘The Biden administration 

wants to distract attention from its failure to combat the pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives’

Unfortunately Biden’s administration has also failed to combat the novel virus. It has repeated the follies to divert people’s attention away from his botched attempt to control the pandemic in the face of the outbreak of the more infectious Delta variant.

Under immense political pressure, the Biden administration wants to distract attention from its failure to combat the pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives.

The utmost importance is for the international community to cooperate on fighting the coronavirus. Let’s exchange anti-COVID practices and learn from one another rather than continuing smearing China. Pandemic of this nature is a threat to mankind. Just as nobody would waste time to track the origins of AIDS or Swine Flu, it remains the top priority for all countries to work together to control the virus and reignite the global economy. 

Moving ahead

Going forward, countries in the globe need to speed up their fight against the pandemic.

FIRST, leaders and health specialists should step up to share their experiences on vaccination, lockdown, and ways to revive the economy.

SECOND, there needs to be the establishment of a better “notification system” of any occurrence of new variants, and the sharing of genetic materials of them.

THIRD, we must overcome the inequality in the distribution of vaccines among countries by having an organised donation mechanism. WHO has said that without controlling the pandemic in third world countries, we will never be able to overcome the pandemic.

A time for unity, not politics; picture by Alberto Guiliani/ Wikicommons

Once politics intervenes, the truth goes out of the window.

Coronavirus origin-tracing efforts should build on scientific-based research, undistracted by political maneuverings. Finger-pointing or playing the blame game will not help resolve the pandemic crisis at hand. As part of the next stage of the virus tracing, it is indispensable to initiate a joint origin tracing investigation across various countries and regions under a global framework.

Henry Ho Kin-chung is Founder and Chairman of One Country Two Systems Youth Forum. This essay appeared simultaneously in China Daily Hong Kong.

Image at the top shows Chinese vaccines being distributed: Public domain

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