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Wake-up call for countries to face up to severity of pandemic

Medical staff embark a patient infected with the COVID-19 onboard a TGV high speed train at the Gare d’Austerlitz train station in Paris to be evacuated along with 37 other patients in two separate medicalised TGVs from Paris’ region hospitals to other hospitals in the western France Brittany region where the outbreak has been limited so far. AFP

The World Health Organization (WHO) Emergencies Director Michael Ryan issued a stark warning in Geneva when he told journalists at a briefing hosted by the UN correspondents association that: “People need to wake up. The data is not lying. The situation on the ground is not lying.”

That the battle with the Novel Coronavirus is still ongoing after seven months should be worrying enough.

That there is still no end in sight, more so. That the total number of people confirmed infected with the virus was more than 11.3 million as of Sunday, with 529,000 people having died, speaks volumes about the scale and intensity of the struggle.

Yet even after seven months and those stark statistics, the number of infections is still rising at a rate of about 150,000 per day and the number of deaths is rising at the rate of up to 4,000 per day, with most of the infections and deaths accounted for by a handful of countries.

And that is what is most worrying of all, because it shows that some countries are not heeding the lessons offered by the experiences of others.

With some countries in Asia and Europe effectively managing to bring their once severe pandemic situations under control, the countries that are now worst affected were offered workable solutions to control the virus. Unless these countries can get a grip on the virus, not only will their own people be at risk but everyone around the world, because no one will be safe until the pandemic is controlled worldwide.

As the WHO emergencies director noted, “too many countries are ignoring what the data is telling them”, because of their urgent needs to get their economies going again and the groundless belief that the virus will “magically go away”.

Regrettably, with its supremacy in medical research, public health, technology and finance, the United States, which accounts for more than a quarter of all infections as well
as a quarter of all the deaths attributable to the virus, continues to lead both rankings because it replaced Italy at the top of them in March and April respectively.

For countries to breathe life back into their economies while not giving the virus a chance to stage a comeback, it is strongly suggested that instead of placing an entire nation under lockdown, the countries carry out differentiated control measures in different areas to allow the places with lower transmission rates to resume their business operations in a step-by-step manner – with face masks, frequent washing of hands in the right way, social distancing and avoiding public gatherings compulsory – while carrying out strict restrictions in the areas where the contagion remains vibrant.

In other words, the countries must re-open up with the capacity to cope with the potential caseload. Otherwise, they will soon know that what they have experienced will be nothing but a prelude.

We all wish the virus will disappear and things could return to some kind of normality. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen if countries don’t quickly learn their lessons. CHINA DAILY


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