The world has slowly started to experience the economic impact of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) both at the individual and institutional levels. The concern can be whether or not China will be disconnected from the world due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and for how long that would last.
Reports of factory closures, low investor morale and undersupply of goods in some of the major markets, especially in the Western world, swirl around like wild fire, and all major stock markets also experience a hard hit both in Asia and the West.
While most of the scare seems to be in the West, African countries may also feel the pinch at any time given their increased interactions with China and the fact that they host more contractors from and rely more on China for consumer products at an affordable price.
Amid the impact that the COVID-19 and its resulting scare have caused, the world needs to be supplied with adequate information to help people protect themselves from it and be able to support their lives during the time of the emergency.
Currently, the Wuhan city in Hubei province is the most affected region as the point of origin, although the disease has spread to some other regions within China and other countries including Britain and the United States. Thus, it’s of crucial importance to know that the whole of China is not infested or affected in the same way.
As a standard practice in addressing health emergencies, a few cities with the highest number of victims or the ones facing a higher degree of vulnerability have been locked down in China to contain the virus from spreading further, which implies that production activities in the respective areas have to stop.
This has affected China as a strong yet still growing economy that feeds into, influences and is connected to the majority of the economies across the globe.
Literally, the mandatory internal mechanisms, such as quarantines, to contain the disease hurt the economy, but the global reaction to the virus may seem to be exaggerated, with several airlines canceling their flights to and from China, except for Ethiopian Airlines and a few other companies that maintain their schedule as usual, which means more business for them.
The movement of people, commodities and services has largely been disturbed at a time when it should be encouraged: the advent of the COVID-19 deals a heavy blow to the global trade, making losses imminent due to a shrink in the market demand; increases the difficulties to resume production due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, as well as raises the degree of general social vulnerability. So far no distinct cause has been established for the COVID-19, although it is largely blamed on the Chinese people’s love for bushmeat and exotic food. But in a developed society where humans live today, no eating culture should be shamed, stereotyped or its aspects exaggerated: The bird flu (H1N1), for instance, was largely blamed on poultry products, but chicken and related birds and products were never stereotyped for the fact that they are food for the majority of the global population.
Irrespective of the cause, the global community needs to focus on fighting the disease together rather than leaving it on China and the World Health Organization (WHO) alone or simply succumb to blaming some food cultures as being the cause of the disease.
In fact, China needs to be commended for the efforts it has made to address the challenge within a short period of time. Despite its diverse demographics, China has demonstrated enough commitment toward fighting the COVID-19 by, for example, building two new hospitals within around ten days and converting seven large stadiums and exhibition centers in Wuhan into mobile cabin hospitals in order to receive and cure more patients. China has also been cooperating with the international community to develop vaccines of the new virus.
Moreover, China’s foreign missions abroad, including its Embassy in Tanzania, have issued warnings to its citizens aimed at protecting themselves and others by, among other things, monitoring their own health conditions and seeking medical attention whenever experiencing the symptoms of the COVID-19 infection, and urging the new arrivals from China to quarantine themselves for 14 days before returning to work.
Other safety measures include raising its people’s awareness on the need for maintaining sanitation and personal hygiene, as well as wearing masks at all public places, including in the offices and factories.
China’s commitment to curb the spread of the virus targets not only its own citizens, but also foreign nationals in China. The non-discriminatory approach in containing the threat to public health is a commendable one given the level of global economic interdependence we’re currently pegged at.
Life definitely has to move on amid the fight against the epidemic. But while addressing the short-term consequences of COVID-19, we must not forget that in due time and with the ongoing efforts, the epidemic will disappear just like others and China will resume its long-term production for the fact that both its determination and infrastructures remain intact.
Francis Semwaza is a development communications consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.