As of February 10, the official number of people infected with the novel coronavirus has soared to 42,634, with 1016 deaths, exceeding the approximate 774 people who died during the SARS epidemic in 2003. Unfortunately, as of yet, there has been no indication of a peak in the number of infected individuals in the near future, and the situation is likely to deteriorate further. As many as 60 million people have been quarantined in Wuhan and surrounding cities in Hubei province in order to limit further infection, yet cases of the virus have been recorded in every province in China and there are over 100 cases in Europe, the U.S., and Asia.
It is clear that political leaders in China and elsewhere are taking this outbreak extremely seriously and are implementing measures in order to limit its spread. On 10 February, the President of China, Xi Jinping, visited Beijing’s Chaoyang district to learn about the frontline of pneumonia prevention and control work. He continues to call this novel coronavirus “a devil” that has to be overcome and has named the struggle against the disease a “people’s war” of the upmost importance. The Covid-19 outbreak has caused a significant disturbance not only to the Chinese economy but to the daily lives of her 1.4 billion citizens. A commentator on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, commented that, “Because going to work is normal life. Every day that I don’t go out and stay at home, I feel like people are going to die.” Politicians worldwide have been making statements regarding the safety of their own citizens from the virus. The British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “I will do everything in my power to keep people in this country safe. We are taking every possible step to control the outbreak of coronavirus,” and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar stated that, “the coronavirus presents a Public Health Emergency in the United States.”
The Chinese government has just gone through its annus horribilis in 2019, with soaring pork prices, low growth, and political strife and protests in Hong Kong. These mammoth challenges to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pale in significance to the crisis now unfolding, and if the situation gets worse, 2020 may be even more severe for the CCP. In particular, the death of Li Wenliang, 33, the doctor who first called attention to the novel coronavirus has resulted in largescale grief and anger among the populace on popular social media platforms. Although he was originally reprimanded by the government and told to “stop making false comments” by the police, he died on 7 February after contracting the virus.
The outbreak of Covid-19 is a major threat to the legitimacy of the CCP, and its performance and ability in controlling the outbreak and reducing the infection rate will be judged domestically and abroad. Even though people may have different views of the integrity and morality of the Chinese government, it is imperative for all of us that its drastic measures to control the virus are successful. A global pandemic requires a global response and thus all governments and citizens should closely abide by WHO guidelines and suggestions. Moreover, we should encourage politicians and civilians to avoid engaging in anti-Chinese and anti-China rhetoric in particular when the country is suffering economically, socially, politically, and institutionally.
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