The city of Wuhan and some of its neighbours have been put into lockdown which speaks volumes about the gravity of the situation.
All 17 deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, whose rapid spread has sparked fears of a global outbreak, have been in Hubei province. And, so far, of the 571 people infected nationwide, the majority are in the provincial capital Wuhan, which is where the outbreak first appeared, and surrounding areas.
Which is why the city and some of its neighbors have been put into lockdown. The move, unprecedented in modern times, speaks volumes about the gravity of the situation and the seriousness with which the government is taking the public health threat.
This was undoubtedly a difficult decision to make, as it directly affects the lives of the millions of residents in the cities. But it shows that the country is resolved to do all it can to bring the pandemic under control.
The visit paid to Wuhan on Wednesday by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, who is in charge of public health affairs, shows that the central government has stepped forward to put itself on the front line in the fight against the virus.
This is a welcome move as it will be conducive to coordinating regional and nationwide efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and ensure all infected people are properly treated and those that have come into close contact with them are traced, checked and isolated if necessary.
The government must ensure that all necessary and available resources are mobilized to bring this pandemic under control. For instance, it should ensure an increased supply of masks and urge people to wear them, as this has proven an effective way to prevent human-to-human transmission. It should also raise awareness of the need for good hygiene practices, such as hand washing.
There is an urgent need for the people to raise their consciousness of self-protection. Everyone has their own contribution to make in the struggle against the pandemic, by paying more attention to personal hygiene and skipping all unnecessary outbound trips. And although the World Health Organization postponed declaring China’s coronavirus a global emergency on Wednesday, it said that decision had been made chiefly on the basis of limited information.
President Xi Jinping spoke with a number of foreign leaders by the phone on Wednesday reassuring them that China will spare no efforts to guarantee timely information disclosure and reiterated that China welcomes international cooperation, which is indispensible to accelerate relevant research into the coronavirus’ etiology.
His words must be taken to heart and acted on.
The fast increase of infections, from dozens to hundreds, and the spread of the coronavirus throughout the country and beyond, shows that even though Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak, all local governments need to keep abreast of the latest developments and heed the lessons from the Wuhan municipal government. Its early underestimation of the health risks posed by the virus meant its response was too little too late to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Spring Festival travel rush — during which hundreds of millions of people will travel across the country has compounded the prevention and control challenge.
Governments of all levels are obliged to resolutely take all preemptive measures to rein in the fast spread of the novel coronavirus and be completely transparent about their local situation so that the country can unite to fight the pandemic together, and ensure that the world has a true picture of the situation. As Xi made clear, the mistakes of the past must not be repeated.