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COVID-19: It’s important to learn from Chinese example

By Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG (People's Daily Online)    18:02, May 14, 2020

The raging Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has left the world’s health systems with scarred memories. Because the disease has already killed hundreds of thousands of people, there is an urgent need for health officials and scientists to continue comparing notes in order to avert an even worse catastrophe. Africans will no doubt be interested in sharing experiences with the Chinese, who brought the outbreak in their country under control fairly quickly, writes *Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG.

The new Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic continues with its trail of destruction – not only to human lives, but also to world economies. Never has the medical science world witnessed a pandemic that is so difficult to control and that has left every national health system choking. With over 4 million people affected across the globe and more than 277,000 deaths by May 11, 2020, the situation calls for enhanced collaboration and cooperation amongst nations and medical scientists.

China was the first nation to bring the disease under check – when others still considered the pandemic as a “non-event”! And so China is better placed to share its best practices on handling COVID-19. After having lost 4,633 lives out of the 82,918 people affected by May 11, 2020, today, life in China is returning to near normalcy.

According to Cyprien Kapuku Kabunda, a journalist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, serving with the China Radio International French language service, China was able to contain the Coronavirus pandemic fairly quickly for two main reasons – the discipline of the people and respect for their leaders. “The Chinese example in handling COVID-19 can be described as the triumph of its Socialist system,” notes Kabunda.

He supports his point by recalling that Asians are generally reserved people. “It is common for opinion leaders in some countries to spend time arguing while the situation of the pandemic worsens, he says. “In the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, for example, when the then Minister of Health on March 10, 2020 announced that the country had recorded its first Coronavirus case, few people took him seriously. Many ridiculed the news, saying it was a ploy to secure WHO funding for an “imaginary” pandemic!” Kabunda says with obvious sadness in his voice. “And so people continued leading their lives as before, not paying attention to Coronavirus prevention measures – until it became almost too late,” the journalist recalls.

On the other hand, he adds, China was also able to tackle the pandemic because of its better infrastructure, such as steady electricity and Internet supply, which enabled people to work from home. This is not the case with Africa, and is the reason why confinement has been a major problem.

“Parcels were delivered to people at their doorsteps, with the government ensuring that the vulnerable received something to eat. Most African governments could not afford this. The new Coronavirus has brought to the fore the need for Africa to upgrade its health infrastructure and health systems,” Kapuku pleads. This is also an area in which the input of the Chinese and other partners is highly welcome.

“An unexpected lesson from the pandemic is that pristine African remedies have given voice to the continent to henceforth provide solutions to international disasters,” notes Prof. Fru Asanji Fobuzshi Angwafo III, Director General of the Gynaeco-Obstetric and Pediatric Hospital in Yaounde, Cameroon.

He says budding scientific research in traditional pharmacopoeia has proffered endogenous responses that are beginning to offer a glimmer of hope to Africans in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. “These positive initiatives are begging for concerted efforts and resolve to structure and fund medicinal research and its champions. It is more compelling today to muster the vigour needed to protect African fauna and flora and reward the rigours of scientific distinction,” Prof. Angwafo III adds.

At a glance, he continues, one of the lessons the pandemic is teaching everyone is that we are all members of a small village called EARTH. “Health systems the world over have been heavily impacted by the pandemic from a structural, human, material and financial standpoint. It is imperative to take a step back to assess the situation thoroughly,” the Director General suggests.

It is therefore time to assess how far we have come in fighting Coronavirus, by sharing best practices – even while the pandemic rages on in most parts of Africa and the world. This is with a view to bringing COVID-19 under control as quickly as possible. Like the Chinese did.

*Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG, who is based in Yaounde, Cameroon, is a contributor to People’s Daily English Language Online Desk. He is a 2017 Fellow of the China-Africa Press Centre.  

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