Saturday, March 21, 2020
China vows closer international cooperation with Russia and other countries to control the novel coronavirus pneumonia pandemic, which experts say further demonstrates its vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
In a phone conversation on Thursday night with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping said that the epidemic broke out ferociously, and China had to rise to the challenge and respond to it bravely.
That is because it not only concerns the lives and health of the Chinese people but also the public health security of the whole world, he said, calling for closer international cooperation in epidemic prevention and control, experience sharing on containment and treatment and facilitation of joint research.
Xi stressed that at this special moment when both countries are fighting the illness, China and Russia have been supporting each other and cooperating closely, which has demonstrated the high level of China-Russia relations in the new era.
Putin said that remarkably effective measures taken by the Chinese government have not only contained the spread of the disease inside China but also made important contributions to safeguarding the health of people in other countries.
Russia greatly appreciates and is pleased with China's efforts, he said, adding that China has set a good example for the international community by lending a helping hand to other pandemic-affected countries in a timely manner.
What China has done represents a resounding answer to the provocation and stigmatization by a certain country over COVID-19, the Russian president said.
Li Yonghui, a researcher of Russian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the virus can be defeated only by concerted efforts.
"Joint efforts such as cooperation in vaccine development, providing assistance across borders and sharing of epidemic information are a reflection of the connotation of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind," Li said.
Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the pandemic further enhances the global community's understanding of this vision.
"The epidemic concerns people's health and lives, regardless of borders or skin color. The most powerful weapon against it is solidarity and cooperation," Ruan said.
The Chinese government has announced it would provide assistance, including testing kits, masks and protective suits, to 82 countries, and the World Health Organization and the African Union, with many shipments having already arrived in recipient countries.
"China is practicing its vision with actual deeds by providing assistance within its ability to other countries," Ruan said, "and this will further improve and enhance China's relationship with international society."
Meanwhile, a certain country that is trying to politicize the pandemic, label the virus and stigmatize China is running into opposition from the global community and such attempts are contemptible, Ruan added.
We have seen how on 26 February the first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Pakistan. At the time of writing this article, there are 382 cases with two confirmed deaths. By the time it’s published, the numbers are likely to have increased further, and eventually are likely to swell to the tens if not hundreds of thousands. This is a number that would most likely be under-reported in order to maintain public composure.
Why has it been an upward trajectory? Despite the government issuing warnings, closing schools and restricting travel, we Pakistanis are continuing with ‘business as usual’. In fact, we are going a step further and seeing it as an opportunity to bring forward our social calendars; dinners are being scheduled, weddings are in full swing and people are still having their underground parties. For what? To increase the likelihood of spreading the virus to an uncontrollable extent?
Those that are coronavirus carriers do not necessarily show symptoms. Many will not. The problem arises when carriers are exposed to others who may have underlying health conditions, including the vulnerable, the weak and the elderly. The problem is that there is no way of monitoring these exposures or numbers. One person can infect thousands by just attending a wedding, going to a shopping mall, or eating out at a restaurant. Given the virus can last on surfaces for up to 28 days, even simple gestures such as opening a doorknob, sitting on a bench, or using an elevator can be deadly.
Imagine the consequences when carriers are continuing with business as usual, directly infecting others through face-to-face meetings or indirectly infecting the masses because they decided to go to a shopping mall, pressed the button to operate the elevator, tried on clothes at various outlets, touched the counters where many people pay for their shopping. The numbers affected and at serious riskwill, without a shred of doubt, increase exponentially. The consequences can be unimaginably devastating, and the number of deaths beyond comprehension.
Following the partial/total lockdowns imposed in the United States, China, Iran, Italy and numerous other countries across the European Union, there is no doubt that this is extremely serious. I am a London-based corporate lawyer, and until a week or so back I really did not think the coronavirus was a big deal. I thought that people were overreacting and that nothing could touch London. I was so incredibly wrong.
People are starting to realize that this may affect us all for the long haul. Supermarket shelves are empty; we’ve all seen the jokes circulating about a lack of toilet paper! There are no delivery slots when ordering online and people are legitimately scared.
Despite the government issuing warnings, closing schools and restricting travel, we Pakistanis are continuing with ‘business as usual’
People in the UK are likely to be heading towards a total lockdown, with people forced to work from home (if at all); children being pulled out of schools so that they do not affect those that are immune-compromised, and 20,000British army troops being placed on standby alert. What does this mean for the rest of the world? It is serious. Action is needed. Now.
Now is the time to act. Now is the time to practice social distancing. Now is the time to read the report that Imperial College London published, and which led to the UK very quickly changing its relaxed approach to a stricter one. Understand the gravity of the situation.
It is not too late to try to contain the spread of the virus, but we need to act immediately. Our social diaries can wait, our events can wait, but our lives and the lives of our dear ones cannot. Don’t be selfish. Do not think that you won’t be affected. This time it is not necessarily about you. It is about your parents, your grandparents, your vulnerable relatives, and your immune-compromised friends.
Please act fast as time is not on our side. So many people are already affected and are carrying the virus. Having said that, the quicker we act, the quicker we stop the coronavirus spreading, and the quicker we prevent hospitals having to choose between saving a 27-year-old cousin (yes, young people are affected) vs an80-year-old grandparent. Make the choice to socially isolate yourself so that the choice doesn’t have to be made between saving the lives of your loved ones. Act now.
Hannah Ellis-Petersen,Shah Meer Baloch
More than 1,000 remain there as thousands more are released into impoverished Balochistan.It was the smell that was the worst. In this dusty camp on Pakistan’s border with Iran, which at one stage held more than 6,000 people, the stench of sweat, rubbish and human excrement hung in the air. There was no real housing, just five people to a ragged tent, and no bathrooms, towels or blankets.
The camp, in the town of Taftan in Balochistan province, was supposed to function as a sanitary quarantine location, preventing the spread of the coronavirus from Iran, which has had one of the worst outbreaks globally.
Instead, according to Mohammed Bakir, who was held there for two weeks, it was no more than “a prison … the dirtiest place I have ever stayed in my life”.
“These were the hardest days and nights of my life,” said Bakir. “We were treated like animals. There were no facilities but also no humanity and everything was in disarray. They were not prepared; there was nothing for us to sleep in except some dilapidated tents.”
Thousands of people have been kept in close quarters in hot, squalid conditions in Taftan, with not even basic precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. According to doctors at the camp, even those who presented with symptoms were not tested or even isolated, and there was a severe shortage of doctors and nurses. There was such a lack of medical facilities, the few doctors on site took to paying for necessary medicines themselves. Things got so bad that protests broke out among those quarantined.
“Neither the quarantining service nor the testing procedure was satisfactory at all,” said one doctor, who asked not to be named. “In the first 20 days, many people had symptoms, but there was no testing at all. We had no testing facilities for three weeks. One child was sent to [a] hospital in Quetta, and he tested positive. But there was no isolation or testing for anyone else.
“There were patients with diabetes, hepatitis and other diseases who were quarantined for 14 days without any proper medication. Their conditions were really bad there and they were treated like animals.”
The border between Pakistan and Iran is more than 600 miles and movement between the two countries is extremely common, especially among minority Shia Muslims in Pakistan who travel to Iran on religious pilgrimages. It is also a crucial trade route.
But over the past two weeks, it has become a hotbed of coronavirus, with infections going up by the dozen every day. There are 302 reported cases of coronavirus in Pakistan, the highest number of cases in south Asia.
Even though infections in Iran began to rise rapidly weeks ago, the Pakistan government only officially shut the border less than a week ago. And the border is still porous; on Tuesday night at least 100 pilgrims crossed from Iran into Balochistan, reportedly after bribing border guards.
Among those held in Taftan was Abid Hussain, who is from Nagar in Gilgit-Baltistan, and was quarantined for two weeks after returning from Iran. “It’s like I have been released from prison,” said Hussain. “They call it a quarantine but we didn’t get hand wash, face masks or any other sanitary facilities. The only check was that in the morning a doctor used to come round taking everyone’s temperature. That was it for 13 days. Everyone was desperate to leave.”
Many of those in Taftan have been released or transferred to other facilities, but 1,200 remain.
Hussain also described lax regulations on movement for those in the camp, with many going to shops in the town, walking around the vicinity and having regular social gatherings. No guidelines were issued for how those in quarantine could protect themselves from getting the disease, and there was no running water for people to wash their hands.
Hundreds of people supposedly under lockdown left the camp to shop at local markets and stores, buying food and returning to the camp without any checks.
“Around these fruit stalls it was more like a scene from a busy Friday bazaar which was run by people who should have been quarantine camp in lockdown,” said one eyewitness.
The situation was equally bad in the hospitals in Balochistan, the least developed and most impoverished province of Pakistan, which were tasked with dealing with the outbreak. A doctor at one hospital in Quetta claimed that medical staff had refused to treat or even examine a young girl with all the symptoms of coronavirus, whose father had recently returned from China for work. The girl reportedly died days later without being tested.
Pakistan’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, said the doctor, was “depressing and disturbing”.
Pakistan has a notoriously poor track record for containing disease outbreaks and is one of only two countries in the world that have failed to eliminate polio. The government’s fear of a coronavirus outbreak meant it even refused to evacuate the 600 Pakistani students stranded in Wuhan province in China, where the pandemic began.