I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.
by Morak Babajide-Alabi
The last six weeks (or thereabout) have been uncomfortable times for China. In a twinkling of an eye, the country, the leaders and the citizens became the focus and the subject of discussions all over the world. The spotlight is understandable as any contrary move in the most populous country could impact the rest of the world. The Coronavirus outbreak has been a big concern to every citizen of the world. The attention was initially on the city of Wuhan where the killer virus made its landing. It didn’t take long before the scope was expanded.
China became the distributor of a product that the world desperately wished to avoid. As the virus was wreaking havoc, world leaders raised concerns about the danger of the spread. The world had to take a step back relating to a country that is the melting point of commercial and economic activities. The word of caution was sent out for people to be wary of their sojourn in the country or contact with the citizens. All of a sudden, China became a pariah state forcing its economic relevance to take a back seat. As the virus spread like wildfire, the shutdown and “quarantine” of China and the citizens were options considered.
China, with a population of over 1.3 billion citizens, has always been important in the scheme of global affairs. The concerns about the outbreak of the Coronavirus is therefore understandable. As at press time the total deaths in China and two reported cases in Japan and Philippine is put at 1,384. The figure of 64,447 confirmed cases is troubling. They are far more than what SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) has inflicted on the world since the early 2000s. According to official records, SARS killed less than 800 people worldwide.
Coronavirus is still second, far behind in reported deaths from the great Ebola Outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Within the period of the Ebola “rampage”, over 11,310 deaths were recorded in West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There were also deaths recorded outside the shores of these countries. At the time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was accused of a “late, feeble and uncoordinated” response to what was regarded as the greatest outbreak in modern history. Maybe the high number of deaths could have been avoided if WHO had put coordinated plans in place to curtail the outbreak. The West African countries were at their wits ends struggling to curtail the outbreak by their limited infrastructure.
The organisation had learnt its lessons. The swift response to the Coronavirus outbreak has been professional and commendable. WHO instantly labelled the epidemic a global emergency that needs urgent “attack.” Alarmed by the death toll, the health agency expressed concerns about countries with no structured or adequate health facilities to prevent or take care of suspected cases. The WHO chief said: “The main reason for this (emergency) declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries.”
This, to me, is a direct reference to the developing countries of the world where health management is not a priority. Imagine the coronavirus making a landing in a West African country (maybe there are already cases undiscovered.) This would be a disaster for the region, as governments there do not regard the provision of health facilities as a priority. Questions are, however, being asked, as there are no reported cases of the virus in Africa, despite the contact the continent has with China. (A case was reported in Egypt on Friday.).
The Chinese government’s initiative of “locking” down Wuhan, the city where the Coronavirus was first reported is commendable. The scale at which the epidemic engulfed the town was alarming and the Chinese authorities had no choice than to shut it down in the hope of curtailing the spread. The air and rail facilities to and out of Wuhan and two other cities — Xiantao and Chibi — were suspended. Nevertheless, there has been criticism of China on the handling and attempt to stifle information on the spread of the virus.
In curtailing the further spread of the virus, China made history by building an emergency hospital in Wuhan primarily to achieve this. A 645,000-square-foot makeshift medical facility, on two floors, equipped with 1,000 beds, 30 intensive care units and several isolation wards was finished in a record 10 days. This is quite remarkable, proving that where there is a will, there is always a way.
This definitely should make some African leaders have a rethink of their usefulness. It is common knowledge that some of them commission infrastructural projects and care less about the delivery dates, rather see them as conduits to siphon funds into private pockets. It is not uncommon for hospitals, roads and schools constructions to go on for almost a decade. Many of the projects are abandoned after the contractors have collected the mobilisation fees and shared to government officials. China has shown the way forward for the heartless African leaders.
The world is still threatened by the now renamed Covid-I9 virus prompting some countries to evacuate their citizens. Britain shouldered the responsibility of repatriating its citizens from the affected cities. On arrival at home, they were not allowed to “roam” about as they were quarantined for two weeks for public health safety. Over nine cases have been reported in Britain, while on Friday two Labour MPs that attended an event in London announced they would be cancelling their public engagement for some time. Alex Sobel and Lilian Greenwood had learnt that an individual with Coronavirus attended the same event.
There have been reported cases in Europe, North America and the Middle East with the latest in Egypt, Africa. No one is sure where the next case would be. The surgical face mask has now become part of the fashion statement all over the world. It is no longer the preserve of the Chinese. The British Dental Practitioners are threatening to down tools as they are running short on supply of surgical face masks. One “good” thing about Covid-19 is that we are educated on personal hygiene all over again. Campaigns on how to wash hands, cough or sneeze are running everywhere.
It is comforting to know that WHO is actively on this and that doctors in China are testing drugs that will, hopefully, stem this virus. On the other hand, the result of the tests and researches will not be immediate. This has further raised fears that much harm might be done before permanent solutions are found.
My heart goes to the Chinese. They are tagged and labelled by Covid-I9. A few senseless individuals are seizing this as an opportunity to attack anyone with the Far East Asian look. It was distressing to watch a UK-born Chinese woman describe her ordeal on television. She said she was subjected to a random abuse on the London Underground, just because of her look.
The toll of this virus on the Chinese economy is unquantifiable. Inside and outside China, business owners are beginning to count their losses. Many have been forced to close down while some are experiencing a lack of patronage. The recent London Fashion Week witnessed an unprecedented absence of buyers and press from the “important” Chinese market. The scheduled April Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai has also been postponed. Although the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead.
How long this virus will hold the world, and particularly, the Chinese, to hostage is still unknown. But one thing is clear though, China needs all the help it could get. Helping China out of this is the safe solution to cutting the spread of the virus short.
As written for the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard, February 16, 2020.