CHENNAI, India, 1 April 2020
US President Trump has been repeatedly accusing China of not informing the world adequately and in right time about the seriousness of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) issue in China, which has caught several countries unaware. According to Trump, due to lack of information from China the world has not prepared itself to face this dreaded virus. While the pledged critics of Trump accuse him of being “uncharitable in his views” in holding China responsible for rapid worldwide spread of this virus, the fact is that there appears to be considerable truth in what Trump has said. Instead of replying to Trump’s charge with facts and figures, China is simply accusing Trump of making false allegations.
The fact and the ground reality is that Coronavirus originated in the Wuhan region in China and spread rapidly to several parts of China.
It should be agreed that China fought against the Coronavirus on its own, without seeking support from elsewhere. In the process, several thousands of Chinese living in China suffered and more than three thousand Chinese citizens lost their lives.
Many multinational companies from Europe, the US, and other developed countries have set up a large number of factories, research centres, and trade offices in different parts of China, apart from Shanghai and Beijing. Several developing countries and underdeveloped countries too have trade outfits in China. Therefore, many families from other countries live in China and they have been traveling in and out of China due to business activities. International travellers and business people have been frequently flying into and out of China. Furthermore, travel of Chinese business people and tourists to other parts of the world have been frequent and in large numbers. Obviously, the virus has been carried from China to other parts of the world by these travellers.
Realising this situation, the Chinese government should have warned the other countries and the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the situation in China, and asked them to take preventive measures and exercise precautions. The Chinese government has not done this.
All said and done, it is well known that mainland China is a “closed country” for all practical purposes, with information about happenings in China hard to get. Media in China is severely suppressed, and Chinese citizens and outside world receive only official communications from Chinese government, with little accessibility to verify and counter-check them.
While the dreaded virus has spread to other parts of the world, causing deaths and sufferings, the Chinese government now claims that it has “conquered the virus” and brought the situation in China under control. If so, the Chinese government has not cared to share with the world any information as to how it controlled the situation and “drove out the virus.” Little is known about the strategies it has adopted. While some people doubt whether China has really brought the situation under control, and if so to what extent, many think that China must have adopted draconian measures and forced the people to remain indoors.
Now some vague claims have been made by the Chinese government that it has developed a drug/vaccine to treat/prevent the Coronavirus, but there is no conclusive proof that it has done so and no clinical trial results have been announced.
If China had warned the world about the impending Coronavirus disaster when it happened in Wuhan in the months of November/December 2019, worldwide efforts could have started at the right time to develop a suitable drug and vaccine.
Since the massive outbreak of viral disease happened first in China, any new drug developed could be tested only in China to ascertain its efficacy and usefulness. By not sharing their experience with other countries and the WHO in dealing with this Coronavirus, and not opening their territory to international researchers to study the issues in depth and develop remedial measures, China certainly stands accused of letting down the world citizens.
Now, huge research efforts are being made across the world to find a drug/vaccine to treat/prevent Coronavirus, which has already spread to a very serious level throughout the world.
Several press releases and briefings from WHO, which is supposed to monitor the heath issues across the world, indicate that this world organization also lacks credible information on the matter. Though WHO has not accused China of keeping it in the dark, it is very obvious.
As the Chinese government has done the damage to the world cause, at least now, better late than never, it should call for a world conference of medical researchers to share the experience and information at its command to find a way out to save the world community from further disaster.
President Trump has the courage to say openly that the Chinese government has failed in its duty to forewarn the world about Coronavirus. The Chinese government should view Trump’s charge in proper perspective and act responsibly to fulfill its obligations to all world citizens.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.