01/29/2020, 08.49
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Wuhan virus reveals fragility of Chinese giant

by Bernardo Cervellera

Although the government has decreed to send 150 military medics experienced with SARS and another 4,000 from other parts of the country, in Hubei (and China), there are no protective suits, goggles, hygiene masks rendering the employment of these new doctors impractical, if not putting them at risk of contagion.  Deaths rise to 132, confirmed infections are now more than 6 thousand.


Rome (AsiaNews) - The news that comes in waves from China about the spread of the coronavirus shows how fragile the Chinese giant is.  Exalted until a few days ago for its economic achievements and for its military and political power, it is now facing the epidemic with an inefficiency and fragility that have thus far, as of January 29, officially cost the lives of 132 people and infected over 13 thousand, of which 6000 confirmed.

The charges of inefficiency arrives first of all from Wuhan's doctors, at the forefront of the fight against the virus, who for days have complained about the lack of instruments and test kits to discover the disease in the tens of thousands of patients who crowd the corridors of hospitals.  With great heroism they work tirelessly for hours and hours and are on the verge of exhaustion.

Although the government has decreed to send 150 military medics experienced with the SARS epidemic and another 4,000 from other parts of the country, in Hubei (and China), there are no protective suits, goggles or hygiene masks rendering the deployment of these new doctors impractical, if not putting them at risk of contagion.

It is estimated that with the ongoing epidemic, at least 100 thousand protective suits are needed per day, but even at full capacity, China is able to produce only 30 thousand per day.  Calculating that the lunar New Year is underway, production has now dropped to 15,000 suits per day.  There may be a possibility that overalls made elsewhere will be sent from other parts of the world, but China's protected economy does not allow these imports to take place easily.

This inefficiency also depends on a lack of information and the silence that was kept for too long before the alarm was raised.  According to The Lancet, the first cases of coronavirus were registered on December 1 last.  At least eight people reported the epidemic on January 1, but internet police arrested them as people who spread "fake news" and attacked social order.  Only a week later, was there official dicussion of a possible Sars-like epidemic.

This case has made it abundantly clear that the lack of free information has become a boomerang that has against the country.  Control of information has led to delays in addressing the emergency, as the mayor of Wuhan declared two days ago.  On January 27, in an interview with the national CCTV channel, Zhou Xianwang admitted that "not only did we not disclose the information [on the development of the coronavirus in the city] in time, but we did not use the information effectively to improve the  our work."

The ineffective use of information is due to the fact that  the approval of the State Council is required before declaring an epidemic emergency.  This centralized procedure and style do not allow immediate and effective decisions above all at the local provincial level.

The same process has to be followed to officially declare a person as a coronavirus patient: the positive test must be sent to the provincial health boardwhich in turn studies the papers and gives permission to hospitalize the patient.  In this case, precious days are lost to treat a patient who in the meantime, not being hospitalized, becomes a "mobile diffuser" of the virus.

Then there was the absolute inconsistency of the Wuhan isolation measures - followed by other cities in Hubei - applied at the turn of the New Year, the period of greatest mobility of the Chinese.  In fact, the mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, said that at least 5 million people left the city after the blockade was imposed.

To correct this transfer of possible carriers of the virus, many cities and provinces of China are now being isolated, even very far from Wuhan.  We receive news of closed cities in Hebei, Heilongjiang, Shaanxi, ... Then there is also the news that industries, schools, universities, shops, shopping centers are postponing the reopening after the New Year holidays.  Even the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges remain closed;  the whole population is advised not to go to public places such as restaurants, cinemas, meetings.

Even the Buddhist temples closed their doors, in the early days of the year precisely when people visit it to give thanks and ask for favors for the year that has begun.  Catholic churches have stopped all celebrations and masses.  The Beijing diocese and others have given special permits to remedy the precept of Sunday mass, advising families to gather at home, read the bible, say the rosary, recite prayers, devotions and florets to ask God to save China from  epidemic.

So far the majority of coronavirus victims are people between the ages of 40 and 60, who were already weakened by some disease (diabetes or otherwise).  There are exceptions, however: in Hubei there is a 35-year-old victim and in Guangxi there are two girls aged four and two, who had visited Wuhan.

An illustrious victim of the disease is Wang Xianliang, the head of the Wuhan Ethnic and Religions Committee, who is famous for persecuting many Christian Protestant communities in the city and Optical Valley.

However,  I believe that the greatest illustrious victim of the epidemic is President Xi Jinping who, in a departure from his typical protagonism, has been very silent throughout and has limited himself to saying that the epidemic is spreading.  Against all expectations, the person who travelled to visit Wuhan and Hubei was Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

The coronavirus epidemic is another blow to the much-publicized "Chinese dream".  This foresees a "moderately wealthy society" by 2021, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, and the modernization of the country into a fully developed nation by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

In 2019 Xi had to face many challenges to this dream and he has always emerged the loser.  The trade war has impoverished China and after the attempts - desired by Xi - to challenge the USA, Beijing had to accept the conditions imposed by Washington.

Due to the tariff war and the global economic crisis, the Chinese economy is no longer as prosperous and an increasing number of experts think that the figures and statistics pitted by the government are false.

For the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, he promised "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan in October.  But despite the lobbying carried out by Beijing, Tsai Ing-wen, from the progressive democratic party, won in the Taiwan elections: exactly what Xi did not want.

In Hong Kong, although Xi praises the police and the violence it exerts on the population at all times, many people in the area continue to demand full democracy to elect parliament and head of the executive.

Some reporters asked the mayor of Wuhan to resign.  Immediately afterwards their newspaper apologized.  But many in China think it is Xi Jinping who should go, even if he has managed to change the constitution to remain president for life.

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