The remarks by some senior officials of the United States, the United Kingdom and France last week, complaining of what they allege was China’s lack of transparency in the early stages of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, although perhaps intended as China-bashing, came across as a self-pitying attempt to absolve themselves of culpability for the situations in their countries.
But try as they might to lay the blame at China’s door, it is not China’s fault that countries are paying the price for not heeding its repeated warnings and the urgings of the World Health Organization (WHO) that they should be prepared for a potential pandemic. And while they are trying to make a case that those did not suffice to spur them to action, they should remember that they have no alibi for their inexplicable inaction after the Chinese government instructed practically one-sixth of the world’s population to stay indoors, including a lockdown on the whole of Hubei province, that brought the world’s second-largest economy to almost a virtual standstill overnight. Coming just three weeks after China gave official warnings on Jan 3 that it had identified an outbreak, the country’s unprecedented quarantine efforts should have convinced everyone of the seriousness of the situation.
Now with the Wuhan authorities revising the death toll and number of infections upward (having brought the situation in the city under control and now gaining a better picture of what it has suffered) the claims that the actual number of deaths in the city were being covered up have been shown to be what they were: callous attempts to support the claims that China did not let the world know what it is facing.
As reports from the US and elsewhere show, it is not always straightforward assigning COVID-19 as a cause of death. Speaking to Newsweek, Mark Hayward, a sociology professor at the University of Texas-Austin, who’s a member of a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory council on mortality statistics, said: “The biggest challenge in obtaining an accurate tally of COVID-19 deaths is to [be able to] implement widespread testing. Locales that lack testing and where populations are rural, reside in nursing homes, or people living alone are likely to be major contributors to the undercount [in the US].”
While it might ease the conscience of some Western politicians to think that people’s deaths are from some fault of China’s rather than their inaction, China’s comparatively low death rate in the pandemic originates not from any manipulation of the figures but from the rigorous efforts it has made to cut the transmission chain and concentrate its resources on Hubei province, and on Wuhan in particular.
Those politicians trying to vilify China should take stock of what is happening in their countries and elsewhere and realise that scapegoating China and the WHO serves no purpose except to expose them to public anger for not directing their attention where it is needed. CHINA DAILY