CHINESE deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhao Baogang (pictured) has urged Zimbabweans to take the lockdown seriously and engage in social distancing as it is a proven way of combating the spread of Covid-19.
On Tuesday, China reported no deaths for the first time since it began publishing figures in January. The Asian economic giant had as of this week recorded 81 865 Covid-19 cases and 3 335 deaths.
Zhao’s comments come at a time China has declared it has successfully fought the epidemic which has affected about 1,5 million people worldwide, killing close to 90 000.
The epicentre of the epidemic was in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province.
To contain the spread in Wuhan, Chinese authorities on January 23 imposed unprecedented restrictions on travel and ordered the closure of most businesses in the bustling metropolis, home to 11 million people.
Other cities in the province followed suit as the infections soared, before gradually declining.
Chinese authorities say the unprecedented measures resulted in a downturn in infection rates, leading to the containment of the virus. The majority of new cases, authorities say, are now being reported outside of China.
Life is gradually coming back to normal in Wuhan after shops were re-opened, with the city seeing its first full week with no new infections. Public transport resumed operations on Wednesday while residents with a clean bill of health are now allowed to leave the city, whose airport has also re-opened.
Zimbabwe, which has recorded 11 official cases and three deaths, is on a 21-day lockdown which began on March 30.
Health professionals have, however, expressed concern that the measures may not be a reflection of the situation on the ground given the limited testing.
Social distancing in Zimbabwe has also not been effective as evidenced by the large numbers of people turning out at shopping centres in search of food, particularly maize-meal. Government’s decision to open the Mbare vegetable market has been slammed in some quarters as it is seen as defeating the very purpose of the lockdown.
People with confirmed cases of Covid-19 are also being treated largely at home, while the 20 512 who have travelled to Zimbabwe from countries that have confirmed Covid-19 cases are not being forcibly quarantined and are instead being encouraged to self-quarantine, which is seen as a risk.
Zhao attributed China’s success in containing the coronavirus to good leadership, mobilisation of resources, discipline, tracing, effective treatment, wearing of face masks and provision of safety nets.
“The first point is that we have a very strong leader in President Xi Jinping. The politburo does not meet often in China, but since the outbreak of the virus there have been many meetings aimed at tackling the virus. President Xi gave orders after the meetings and what he says is implemented without delay. If an order is given in the afternoon, by night it is implemented,” Zhao said.
He also said the Chinese leadership mobilised more than 100 billion yuan (US$14,5 billion) to fight the virus.
“In Hubei province, which was the epicentre at the beginning of the virus, the government mobilised 42 000 doctors and deployed 330 medical teams alongside doctors from Hubei to fight the virus,” Zhao said. “The teams helped to trace contacts of infected persons to ensure that the virus is contained. The effective tracing and testing were crucial in the fight.
“Two specialist hospitals were also built in around 10 days and later 16 temporary hospitals were constructed, also in a few days. All coronavirus patients were being put in isolation hospitals and specialist hospitals to minimise the spread.”
Zhao said Chinese people are disciplined, such that when the government issued lockdown directives people stayed home.
“Lockdown is the best approach,” Zhao said. “If everyone stays at home, the infected people will show symptoms after 14 to 15 days. Those with symptoms are picked up and everyone they came into contact with is traced and observed to make sure the virus does not spread further.
“If you are at home, and do not have the virus, you will remain virus free if you obey the order. The more you travel, the more you expose yourself.”
Social safety nets
Zhao said the Chinese social security system also helped during the lockdown period, as subsidies were given to cushion the vulnerable, resulting in them not venturing out of their homes. He said the majority of the population also had enough money in the bank, enabling them to make transactions from home.
“In China, wearing face masks is part of the culture. If you are not well, you wear a mask so that you don’t infect others. Wearing a mask is a preventive measure to protect yourself and others. It shows you are considerate,” Zhao said.
“I’m happy to see that in Zimbabwe more people are wearing masks, including President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa. It’s a good example.”
Zhao also said it was important for Zimbabweans and the rest of the world to avoid stigmatisation and share information in the fight on Covid-19.
China has been accused of falsifying its infection and death toll figures while some social media reports have suggested that the country should be blamed for the virus.
“From the onset, we shared information on the coronavirus with the World Health Organisation and other countries, including the United States,” Zhao said.
“We took measures to fight the virus and we are sharing our experience with other affected countries who, like us, are also victims.
“The fact that the lockdown on Wuhan has been lifted is evidence that we have resolved the issue although we still have controls in the movement of people.
“Some of the people blaming China were slow to respond to warnings, but every country, every government and every leader has to take responsibility for the people. We don’t believe the atmosphere for cooperation must be poisoned, we must share experiences and help each other.” — Staff Writer.