COVID-19: A tale of two approaches

After months of hard lockdown, residents of Wuhan, China, held a massive pool party in August to celebrate the success of their sacrifice.

By Mike Weland

There are 195 nations in the world and an estimated world population, in 2018, of 7.6-billion. The most populous nations are China, 1.4-billion, India, 1.3-billion, and the United States, 330-million.

According to Johns Hopkins, China, where a new strain of coronavirus was first discovered in the waning days of 2019, making it the epicenter of a pandemic, as of 9:27 p.m. Eastern today reported 93,348 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 4,746 deaths, or .31-percent of the world’s COVID deaths.

Many have accused the world’s most populous nation of fudging the numbers, but more on that in a moment.

In both case count and deaths, the world’s third most populous nation, the United States, leads far in disproportion to its population, and most think the numbers provided by the U.S. are at least reasonably accurate.

Taken from the same data set, the United States had 14,367,462 cases of novel coronavirus since the pandemic arrived on the nation’s shores, almost 154 times the number of China, which has 36-percent of the world’s population. With just 4.25-percent of the global population, the U.S. has 22-percent of the world’s COVID-19 cases, and with 278,932 dead, about 18-percent of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.

World-wide, there were 65,899,441 cases.

In the top five nations in total COVID count, accounting for 22-percent of the world’s cases, India comes in second with 9,608,211, or 15-percent, Brazil third with 10-percent, and Russia and France almost tied with about four percent each for fourth and fifth, respectively.

In deaths, the U.S. had 278,932 of the world’s 1,518,670, accounting for 18-percent. Brazil accounted for 12-percent with 175,964, followed by India, nine-percent, Mexico seven percent and the United Kingdom, four-percent.

In deaths, the top five nations account for almost half the world total.

While many experts believe China has to be lying in its numbers, the prestigious peer-reviewed general medical journal The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best known, doesn’t agree, nor do many officials in the World Health Organization.

Talha Burki

“According to a July survey by the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans believe that China has done a bad job dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, ” journalist Talha Burki reported in an October 8 article, “China’s successful control of COVID-19.” “It is clearly not an opinion shared by WHO. In a press conference in September, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, offered ‘deepest congratulations…to the front-line health workers in China and the population who worked together tirelessly to bring the disease to this very low level.’”

On September 22, President Donald Trump gave a combative address to the UN General Assembly referring to SARS-CoV-2 as the “China virus” and demanded that China was held accountable for unleashing this plague onto the world.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who addressed the General Assembly after Trump, urged nations affected by COVID-19 to “follow the guidance of science … and launch a joint international response to beat this pandemic.” He added that “any attempt of politicizing the issue or stigmatization must be rejected.”

“Despite being the first place to be hit by COVID-19, China was well-placed to tackle the disease,” Burki wrote. “It has a centralized epidemic response system. Most Chinese adults remember SARS-CoV and the high mortality rate that was associated with it … Other countries do not have such fresh memories of a pandemic. Aging parents tend to live with their children or alone but nearby. Only three-percent of China’s elderly population live in care homes, whereas in several western countries, such facilities have been major sources of infection.”

Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, was placed under a strict lockdown that lasted 76 days. Public transport was suspended.

Soon afterwards, similar measures were implemented in every city in Hubei province. Across the country, 14,000 health checkpoints were established at public transport hubs. School re-openings after the winter vacation were delayed and population movements were severely curtailed.

Dozens of cities implemented family outdoor restrictions, which typically meant that only one member of each household was permitted to leave the home every couple of days to collect necessary supplies.

Within weeks, China had managed to test nine-million people for SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan. It set up an effective national system of contact tracing.

By contrast, the UK’s capacity for contact tracing was overwhelmed soon after the pandemic struck the country.

As the world’s largest manufacturer of personal protective equipment, it was relatively straightforward for China to ramp up production of clinical gowns and surgical masks.

Moreover, the Chinese readily adopted mask wearing.

“Compliance was very high,” said Xi Chen, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut. “Compare that with the USA, where even in June and July, when the virus was surging, people were still refusing to wear masks. Even in late September, President Trump still treated Joe Biden’s mask-wearing as a weakness to be ridiculed.”

Drones equipped with echoing loudspeakers rebuked Chinese citizens who were not following the rules. In the UK, 150 000 people were permitted to attend a horse racing meet in mid-March, 10 days before the country went into lockdown. In August, 460,000 Americans congregated in Sturgis, South Dakota, for a motorcycle rally.

Susan Glasser

On November 3, the New Yorker published a letter by Susan B. Glasser, “Donald Trump’s 2020 Superspreader Campaign: A Diary.”

“’The Fake News media is riding covid, covid, covid, all the way to the Election. Losers!’ the forty-fifth President of the United States wrote. In another tweet, he called the alarming new spike in cases across the country ‘a fake news media conspiracy,'” she wrote. “It was a pretty good distillation of his closing message: COVID is fake; the media is fake. Don’t believe anything except what I tell you.”

“In China, you have a combination of a population that takes respiratory infections seriously and is willing to adopt non-pharmaceutical interventions, with a government that can put bigger constraints on individual freedoms than would be considered acceptable in most Western countries,” Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, told Burki. “Commitment to the greater good is ingrained in the culture, there is not the hyper-individualism that characterizes parts of the USA and has driven most of the resistance to the countermeasures against the coronavirus. China does not have the kind of raucous anti-vaccine, anti-science movement that is trying to derail the fight against COVID-19 in the USA.”

In August, Wuhan hosted an enormous pool party.

“There were objections from some foreign media outlets,” Burki wrote. “The state-owned Global Times was unapologetic. It suggested that the event stood as ‘a reminder to countries grappling with the virus that strict preventive measures have a payback.'”