By Austin Maho Ph.D.
Reports on how China has been able to deploy unprecedented resources and mobilized its people in containing the coronavirus outbreak holds lessons for many countries around the world including Nigeria on how best to contain the virus.
Through dogged determination and “unprecedented steps” according to the World Health Organsation, China is steadily and quietly containing the virus which was initially view as an apocalypse of biblical proportions.
Recent figures from mainland China shows that COVID-19 is currently on a downward spiral, while concerns are mounting in other parts of the world on rising cases. Europe, South Korea, Iran and the United States are presenting worrying scenarios.
The worry in some of these countries is because they have treated the outbreak with kid’s gloves and thus allowed the situation to spiral out of country. Many of these countries have ignored the warnings issued by the World Health Organization when the outbreak was declared as a global health emergency in late January, and allowed its spread undetected.
The Chinese government is leading the way on the best plan of action in containing the virus. In Hubei the epicentre of the outbreak and mainland China the rate of new infection is on the decline. The news is that the infection rate of new patients is currently below those who are recovering. This is good news coming from China. With a decline in the infection rate it has become apparent that the worst may be over for China as the coronavirus has reached its zenith and has started receding. China especially Hubei can now readily heave a sigh of relief.
According to Reuters News Agency, the Chinese Mainland, as at Monday the 9th of March 2020, reported zero locally transmitted COVID-19 cases outside Hubei. This would be the second straight day of zero reported cases, as no new case was reported the previous day.
To further demonstrate the declining rate of the infection in China, the National Health Commission of China reported that on Sunday a total of 44 new cases of the coronavirus infection were confirmed across China whereas by the following day, Monday, March 09, 2020, cases of the coronavirus infections were down to 40 cases. This figure is significant because it represents the lowest number of new infection since Chinese health authority started issuing nationwide data on the coronavirus on January 20.
In total there are at present about 30,538 cases of infected people in the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei while 33,762 have fully recovered. The significant of this data according to public health experts is that it marks a shift in the spread of the infection. This would be the first time that Hubei has more people that have recovered from the disease than are still suffering from it.
While China can quietly look forward to more improvement in the public health records of the coronavirus infection in the days ahead, the rest of the world seems to have treated the early warnings and spread of the disease with levity.
Europe is in big trouble and Italy has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 in Europe.
Italy is a big worry to health experts because it currently occupies the number three position in casualty rate after China and Iran and as a result of the free and non-restriction of movement within European countries the disease can easily spread.
European authorities showed a rather lacklustre attitude towards the containment of the disease at the beginning of the outbreak.
In Italy, some 16 million persons in the northern Italian town of Lombardy are now under quarantine, some 133 deaths were reported on Sunday, and this brings the total deaths to 366. More than 7,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the country.
Germany and France have not been spared either as they both have confirmed cases of 130 apiece as at Sunday March 8,2020.
The irony however is that, while there is a slowdown in the spread of the virus in China and South Korea, the cases in Europe and the United States is in the reverse. This is unlike China which was taken by surprise and didn’t have any window of opportunity to prepare for the outbreak. It is unfortunate to note that many of these countries now battling with the virus, had the window of opportunity to prepare, but they did not do much.
The good news currently coming from China on the containment of the virus came at great social, political and economic cost to the Chinese people and government.
We recall that as at January this year many Chinese hospitals were overflowing with COVID-19 patients. The bed space to admit patient were not even available, which prompted the government to mobilise men and resources that saw to the construction of two new hospital for COVID-19 patient in record time.
But today the number of new cases reported each day has plummeted. The question is, what exactly did the Chinese do to contain the disease and what lessons can the rest of the world learn from it?
The answer can be found in the report by the World Health Organization (WHO) assessment team that visited China last week.
The team was made up of 13 public health experts drawn from all over the world who joined their Chinese counterparts to tour some cities in China to see first-hand the effectiveness of the Chinese government response to the outbreak.
Although some of the measures were described as extreme but it enabled the Chinese authorities to bring the outbreak under control.
An epidomologist, Tim Eckmanns of the Robert Koch Institute, who was part of the mission, noted that: “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic,” it says. “This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.” He observed.
Key to the successes recorded by China in its fight against the coronavirus includes, massive shutdown of whole cities, unprecedented surveillance of people and movement, and a strict adherence to guidelines release by the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China.
The guidelines also includes prevention, control diagnosis and management which incorporated treatment regimens that include modern medicines and Chinese tradition medicines.
The strategic and stringent measures adopted by the Chinese government ensured that hundreds of thousands of people across China escaped infection.
However Steven Riley, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, who was part of the visiting team to China, observed that the measures adopted by China to contain the outbreak poses difficult questions for all countries currently considering their response to COVID-19. While China provides a workable model he believes most countries in the West may not have the political will and legal backing to lock down whole cities as a containment measure.
However a major aspect of the report commends the spirit of the Chinese people noting that their “sense of responsibility and collective action” played a great part in containing the spread of the outbreak.
The report notes that: “China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history”.
As the rest of the world works toward containment and spread of the coronavirus, the good news coming from China should be an inspiration and a guide and provide the manual for containing the spread of COVID-19.
Back home in Nigeria and with the anounncement of the second case of the coronavirus Nigeria also have a lot to learn from China.
It is commendable that Prisident Buhari has not being in denial as to the seriousness of the outbreak.
In a recent statement the President emphasized the need to contain the virus and the country’s commitment to the global effort to stem the epidemic.
“Nigeria will continue to fulfill its obligations to the international community, by ensuring that we curtail the spread of the disease. The Federal Government is making available all the resources required to contain the threats” President Buhari said.
He also expressed sympathies and Solidarity with countries that are currently facing serious outbreaks of the disease. “My deep sympathies to the Presidents of Iran & South Korea,and the Prime Minister of Italy, following increasing incidents of Coronavirus in their countries” He said.
It is hope that the position of Mr President will galvanize the Nigerian people toward more positive action in controlling the outbreak while at the same time stopping the spread of panic and victimization.