TNW, March 23. As tens of millions of homes in Europe and North America have been converted into virtual detention centers, a big question arises as to why the death toll due to COVID-19 in much smaller Italy has crossed that of China, whose population is over 20 times more than that of the former. On March 18, as high as 475, people died here. By that yardstick the death toll in China in a single day should have been around 10,000.
Apparently this poser would not have arisen had the West, especially the United States not ridiculed, mocked and criticized the way China was handling the crisis. While Beijing appears to have managed to overcome this challenge after losing more than 3,200 people in three months, Italy has surpassed China in half of that period. If the fatality rate in China was just around three per cent that of Italy, it is double.
The densely populated China has more than one and half time population than that of sparsely populated Europe and North America yet, the former had largely managed to confine the spread of this pandemic to Hubei province, where Wuhan is situated. In contrast the epidemic acquired a pandemic form once it reached the West and spread like a jungle fire all over.
While China was caught off guard when the disease first struck in the first week of December, Europe and the United States, which boast of the best medical system in the world, got two long months to make the preparation. In that way their performance was even inferior to Iran where too the virus spread much before Europe. On March 18 President Hasan Rouhani said that nowhere in Iran the situation is like in Europe and the United States, where the people have indulged in panic buying of the food items, medicine and other essential items.
Iran claimed that it fought the challenge almost alone as it is facing the US sanction.
Similarly, President Xi Jinping of China visited Wuhan on March 10 as a part of confidence building measure. The country has closed down all the temporary hospitals as it hopes that the worst is over.
Citizens in the western countries are bound to act as to why their leaders failed to rise to the occasion. If tourism is to be blamed for the spread of the disease, especially in the Mediterranean region, why no action was taken earlier. And now suddenly all the panic buttons are being pushed. The free media––both social and not so social––played its own quota of role to wreak havoc among the common masses.
Take the case of Australia which hosted the Women’s World Cup T20 final on March 8 though it had by then reported three fatalities. In the final it defeated India and there was hardly any panic though the people were alarmed.
But within a matter of a few days everything went upside down. The situation had worsened to such an extent that in a marketing mall a woman drew a knife to get toilet papers.
If there was potential danger of the spread of Corona Virus so fast why not the World Cup was cancelled. This question arises because Saudi Arabia took the decision to ban Umrah congregation in Makkah four days earlier, that is, March 4. Saudi took the step because Corona Virus had by then struck neighbouring Iran. Besides, Umrah attract pilgrims from across the world.
Just less than a month back President Donald Trump, who usually does not like to undertake a very long journey, paid a visit to India on Feb 24-25. He did not mind making a trip to the country closest to China.
Though only one hundred thousand people gathered in Ahmedabad to greet him, he himself was expecting something between seven and 10 million people in Gujarat’s capital.
As hotels and resorts were booked much in advance the countries in the West ignored the danger of the spread of the Corona Virus.
There is no scope of one-upmanship in this hour of crisis, yet there is no denying the fact that the United States was more interested in fighting the tariff war with China even at the height of COVID-19.
China was accused of developing a biological weapon in Wuhan. The Chinese medical system was looked down upon and the disease was nicknamed by many in the West as Wuhan Corona Virus, just to indicate the origin of the disease.
No answer was given to the question that if China was making biological weapon how it itself became its victim. And if Beijing was really involved in any such nefarious design why the European countries and the United States failed to check its entry and that too in such a big way.
Instead of only blaming the Chinese people of travelling abroad and spreading the disease the West should honestly concede that the Corona Virus spread outside that country when their own tourists, businessmen, students, professionals etc started returning home to their respective countries.
Take the case of India. Here the virus came after the return of students and other professionals working in China. No Chinese tourist brought it. In contrast the first foreigners in India in whom Corona Virus was confirmed were Italians. As late as March 13, dozens of foreign tourists, almost all from western countries, were seen in Lotus Temple in Delhi. Why the countries to which they belonged allow them to travel abroad? And why not the Indian authorities stopped their movement?
As China has huge investments abroad, especially in Africa and even South America. Thousands of Chinese are involved in different projects in various countries of these two continents. Yet Corona Virus has reached these two continents much later than Europe and the United States. The fatalities too are much less in these relatively less developed countries.
However, it is also true that the first person to die in France was an 80-year old Chinese tourist while his daughter, who also suffered from the disease, recovered.
Instead of over blaming China and cutting jokes against its people, the West needs to ponder and objectively study whether Corona Virus has become a pandemic because of their own globe-trotting citizens who took the disease to different corners of the world.
From the laxity displayed in the initial couple of months the western governments went to another extreme by suddenly locking down the entire countries and causing more panic than China and Iran.
This amounts to bolting the stable after the horse has fled.
Soroor Ahmad is a senior journalist based in Patna. He is author of ‘The Jewish Obsession’.