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Blame game: Wrong and harmful remedy to Covid-19



Plagues and epidemics have ravaged humanity throughout its existence. Nothing has killed more human beings than vicious infectious diseases caused by bacteria, virus or parasite. Not natural disasters, not famines, not wars – not even close.

The Black Death caused up to 200 million deaths in the 14th century and more after that. The 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people and killed tens of millions. Smallpox killed 300 million in the 20th century alone until an effective vaccine was invented.

Whenever there was a big epidemic, there were many heroes and heroines in fighting disease and saving lives. Unfortunately, every time there were also ugly blame games. Blaming something or someone seems to be the easiest way to relieve fear and helplessness, the most convenient explanation and a magical solution to an unknown disease.

During the Black Death, Jewish people were attacked and killed throughout Europe because they were blamed for it. When a typhus epidemic broke out in Britain in 1847, Irish immigrants were targeted for transmitting the “Irish Fever”. However, those blame games did not provide any help, but only led to racial, religious or political discrimination, stigmatization and persecution.

Now we are engaged in a great global battle against Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the advancement of science and technology, we are in a better position than our ancestors in fighting a pandemic. Scientists around the world are using modern scientific tools to rapidly sequence the genome of the virus, pass along new information, test as much of the population as possible and collaborate on finding countermeasures and identifying the origin of the virus.

However, old blame game tricks have unfortunately come back again. When the global Covid-19 pandemic needs global leadership and cooperation, some populist politicians are using the pandemic as a political tool. They try to sideline the important work and guidance of medical experts and scientists, spread another kind of virus by targeting and blaming others, especially China. They cook up disinformation such as the Covid-19 virus originated from a Chinese lab, accuse China of spreading the virus to the world by delaying and covering-up, and clamor to “hold China accountable and to compensate”.

Indeed, tracing the origin of Covid-19 virus is a question need to be answered. The answer to it will not only help us know more about the pandemic, improve countermeasures, accelerate research on vaccines, but also make us be better prepared for the next pandemic. But the focus of the work should not be anything other than the virus, and it should and could only be done by scientists based on facts and science, not by anyone else on misleading and ill-intentioned speculation with no evidence. Only with science can we find the truth. Political witch-hunting will do nothing good but hindering and suppressing the vital work of scientists.

Blaming China for the pandemic is as blaming the first victims who were hit by the first wave of a flood. No country was caught more unprepared by this new virus than China. Last December, the currently first known cases of Covid-19 - when it could only be identified as pneumonia of unknown cause - were reported in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province. At that time, nobody in the world knew anything about the disease. In spite of the unprecedented challenge, China responded quickly and decisively.

On December 27, Doctor Zhang Jixian in Wuhan reported three suspicious cases. In the following few days, local and central governments conducted investigations on the ground. On December 31, China informed the WHO China Country Office of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan. On January 3, China began sending regular, timely updates about the epidemic to WHO and the rest of the world. On January 12, China released the whole genome sequence of the virus and shared it with the WHO and many countries, which is critical for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease globally. On January 23, China locked down Wuhan, a city with a population of 10 million, and then actually the whole Hubei Province.

This lockdown sent a very clear and strong warning message to the whole world about the severity of the epidemic. On January 30, the WHO declared the disease to be PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern).

While fighting its own battle, China has spared no efforts to strengthen international cooperation against the pandemic. With openness, transparency and responsibility, the Chinese government and scientists have been cooperating with WHO and other countries on issues related with the pandemic, including tracing origin of the virus. We have been sharing all medical information, including updated diagnosis and treatment guidelines, with the world. We have been extending support to other countries, including donating PPE and medical equipment to countries in need, especially those with weaker health systems, and facilitating procurement demand from almost the whole world.

By mobilizing the whole country, taking unprecedentedly strict and comprehensive measures, collaborating with the international community, we have effectively contained the pandemic in China. Outside of Wuhan and Hubei Province, the rest of China’s numbers of Covid-19 cases and fatalities were successfully contained to low, even in all the neighboring provinces of Hubei. China’s efforts and success in avoiding massive outbreaks not only saved lives at home, but also bought precious time for the world.

Blaming China for the increasing numbers in countries far away from Wuhan and Hubei is politically motivated nonsense. If someone needs to be held accountable in this battle, it could not be China, but those who spread droplets with political viruses to shirk their own mistakes and responsibilities, and to take political gain from people’s suffering.

Now the global battle against Covid-19 is far from over. This battle is not only between mankind and the virus, but also between truth and falsehood. Biological viruses recognize no borders, no races, no ideologies or political systems. There is no virus of yours, theirs or ours. An epidemic may emerge anytime, anywhere, and infect the rest of the world quickly. No country will be safe and can claim victory before the epidemic is defeated by every country. Failure of the international community to work together in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic would only help the virus continue to spread across the world.

To overcome the pandemic, the world needs not only science, but also conscience. While we are testing the virus, the virus is testing us. While we are all working for a future of recovery, we should also prevent political viruses from distracting and delaying the necessary global response, otherwise we will be led to nowhere but the deep gutter. Blame game is a wrong remedy to Covid-19, and is as harmful as recommending that people shall inject disinfectant into their lungs.

For more information on the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, check out the website or the official Twitter page.