Since emerging from Wuhan, Hubei, China, COVID-19 has spread across China and beyond. As of Feb 25th, the country has reported 78,190 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection, 2,491 suspected cases, and 2,718 deaths, and the number is still growing. But is there something hiding behind these worrying numbers? Why did it cause such a serious situation? What has China done to control it?
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine, written by authors from the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, showed that there already had human-to-human transmission cases of the novel coronavirus in December 2019 in China, but the public was not informed about the situation until January 20th, 2020.
What’s worse, Wuhan officials didn’t provide any related report between January 6th and January 10th and they kept denying the evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus, as during that period, there were two important political meetings going on in Wuhan. Wuhan leaders didn’t want the bad news to ruin the meetings. Due to their slow initial response, China has to pay a big price.
Somehow, after January 16th, the central leadership of the country learned that something went wrong in Wuhan. On January 18th, they sent an investigation team to Wuhan led by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, an 83-year-old coronavirus expert who aided the SARS response.
He announced the human-to-human transmission of the virus to the public when interviewed on January 20th, and after seeing its spread records, he realized that serious measures must be taken to contain its spread and that quarantining the city was the only option.
On January 23rd, officials in Wuhan shut down all transportation in and out of the city, which is home to over 11 million people. Within a week, fifteen other cities in Hubei Province with a total of 46 million people were also locked down.
Besides that, inter-provincial and inter-city bus services in 27 of China’s 34 provinces were suspended due to the outbreak. The country’s Ministry of Transport has carried out differentiated policies to restore public transport in these areas in line with their classifications of epidemic risk.
Because of the rapid spread of the virus, the whole health care system in Wuhan was completely overrun in late January. Many people couldn’t check into a hospital even though they had the symptoms. On Jan 23rd, an order to build a makeshift hospital in 10 days was issued. It seemed like an impossible mission.
A hospital with 1,000 beds called Huoshenshan Hospital was completed as planned and delivered to Chinese military medical teams on Feb. 2nd. Meanwhile, another temporary hospital with 1,600 beds called Leishenshan Hospital was finished on Feb. 6th after a 15-day construction. Both of the construction processes were live-streamed online.
Soon, gymnasiums, sports arenas, hotels, and even university dormitories were transformed into quarantine areas to hold coronavirus patients in mild condition. These places were equipped with food, beds, and other essentials.
Some of the patients were from hospitals, while some were removed, sometimes forcibly, from their homes and placed inside. Regular checks were provided to them. If one’s conditions get worse, he or she will be transferred to the other designated hospital for further treatment
Since the coronavirus can spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, wearing a medical mask is one of the most effective ways to protect oneself. But the demand for medical masks far exceeded its supply across the country. Almost all the medical masks and N95 masks, both online and offline, were sold out.
Accordingly, the Chinese government has asked leading mask manufacturers like 3M and Honeywell to speed up mask production, and they will allocate the masks. They also encouraged other factories to switch to mask production to fill the gap. So, if you hear a garment or diaper plant is selling masks, don’t be surprised.
January 24th to 30th was a traditional Chinese holiday, the Spring Festival, a time for family reunions. To stop the spread of the disease, China’s central government had extended the holiday by two days to February 2nd. Major business hubs, like Beijing and Shanghai, then further extended holidays to February 9th.
In addition, many cities across the country had cancelled their celebrations for the Lunar New Year. This was like some places in the USA cancelling Christmas celebrations. Besides, many schools were not scheduled to reopen until February 25th or even March 1st, depending on the specific situation.
Since the news of human-to-human spread came out, the central government has been calling on people to stay at home as much as possible. For the safety of life, most people can do it spontaneously. In urban and even rural areas, residents leaving and returning to their communities are strictly supervised.
The epidemic is now showing signs of moderation, but it’s still necessary to remain vigilant in the battle. After the holiday, many companies allowed their staff to work from home, and teachers began to teach online to reduce interpersonal contact. For weeks, millions of people have managed to stay at home, which is rare in human history.
If a person is diagnosed with the new coronavirus pneumonia, she/he would not have to worry about the cost, as the following medical expenses which are not covered by medicare programs will be subsidized by the finance.
As of Feb. 24th, the central and local governments in China have allocated a total of 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) to support the battle against the novel coronavirus. President Xi and other members from the central government also donated money to support epidemic control.
Thanks to the National Radio and Television Administration, 15 hit TV shows will be broadcast without airing fees on TV in Hubei, the worst-hit region in China. The topics of these shows include medical drama, revolutionary history, modern urban and rural lives, and so on.
Since people in Hubei are required to stay at home or are under quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak, these series are aimed to help them tide over a difficult time.