Clueless critics play politics vs global health & WHO

One day it may be retold: another unproductive political stunt by the United States Cold War 2.0 campaign against “peer competitor” China was the call made by Hong Kong riot-organizer Joshua Wong for World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to resign amid the Wuhan 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).

The reason for Wong’s resignation demand is the praise given by Director-General Ghebreyesus for the early response of China’s top leadership, who have reportedly declared a “People’s War” on the 2019- nCoV ARD.

Plaudits for China

China has admitted that Wuhan City did not act as quickly as it should have. Recently, western news programs are hyping the death of whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang, yet many miss providing the complete story, i.e., China’s Supreme Court has already said it was a mistake to quell early “rumors” about the Wuhan virus, the mayor has already offered to resign, Dr. Li died of over-exhaustion from work and people has already made Dr. Li a hero.

(How are whistleblowers treated in other countries? How were the United States and United Kingdom soldiers, who exposed the fake news on weapon of mass destruction that was used to justify the Iraq War that has killed over a million civilians, treated? How is the US treating Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who exposed the illegal activities of the US not only to the world, but to American citizens themselves. Did the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and Rappler report on these?)

By declaring a People’s War on the nCoV, President Xi Jingpin has put the health of his people above all other considerations. According to the Chinese communist party paper People’s Daily, Xi had “demanded resolute opposition against bureaucratism and the practice of formalities for formalities’ sake.” Instead, he is carrying out direct and immediate action to put an end to the disease.

As of Feb. 6, 2020, just two weeks after Wuhan city imposed a lockdown, about 34,000 cases of the 2019-nCOV had been confirmed, while a total of 1,153 novel coronavirus patients had already recovered and been discharged from the hospital. Some 700 have died of the disease and the average global mortality rate is now established to be around 2 percent.

At his first WHO press conference right after visiting China, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the level of commitment in China was incredible: “Its (China) actions actually helped in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus to other countries… we shall tell the truth and that’s the truth.…”

This statement, and others that followed, is obviously what triggered Joshua Wong’s resignation call, quite possibly upon the urgent whisperings of his western handlers.

US H1N1 response pales

When we compare China’s action today to the US behavior when the H1N1 swine flu virus was first detected in America in 2009, China’s dedication to the health of its people and the world becomes obvious.

Based on US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 documents, the US conducted surveillance, hospitalizations and information campaigns, and studied the virus to come up with a vaccine. But it never took the necessary drastic measure of locking down cities to prevent the spread. The tragic result? The US had two waves of the epidemic that infected 59 million Americans, hospitalized 265,000 and killed 12,000.

Worldwide, the US Centers for Disease Control estimates that 151,700 to 575,400 people died from the H1N1 virus. Two hundred and six countries and territories reported confirmed infections and 11 to 21 percent of the global population were estimated to have contracted the illness. If only the US had done what China is doing now, the casualties and victims would have been far fewer.

Duterte’s measured approach

President Rodrigo Duterte has taken the same measured approach of the WHO, as have most Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) countries.  In taking this careful approach — characterized by oppositionists as “slow” and “delayed” — they have not succumbed to the hysteria being whipped up by politically motivated malefactors, panicky and ignorant gossipers, and some genuinely nervous people.

Critics of President Duterte’s measured response to nCoV do not wish the nervous among us to understand what the WHO also knows, that is, that panic causes greater disaster. The novel coronavirus crisis must be put in perspective of the whole gamut of considerations, such as, the national and global economy and social peace and order.

Bigger impact

The most telling negative impact of the coronavirus hysteria and overreaction has come a little late; but nevertheless, it has presented a shock to those demanding “total travel ban” from and to China.  The overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in China and Hong Kong and those currently in Manila want to go back to their jobs there. In fact, “25,000 [Hong Kong] maids [are] in danger of losing jobs due to the nCoV travel ban…”

Banana growers are telling us that China is cutting back on its banana imports due to the coronavirus crisis in the country, and that is costing the Philippines $ 5.5 million weekly.

One week into the lockdown of Wuhan and some other Chinese cities, we have started hearing from the Filipino OFWs in those cities, speaking via social media.  Majority of them share they are safe and would rather stay in China. One Filipino teacher aired her frustration with the critics, crabs and grumblers she encountered over the social media and news who were demanding a “total travel ban,” lambasting China and the Chinese.

The OFW was very emotional in expressing her appreciation to her Chinese employer and the Chinese government who took very good care of her and other Filipinos. She then lamented at the Filipino crabs and grumblers back home and rallied her countrymates to avoid the negativity, which helps no one, but to spread more love and understanding.

China ‘setting a new standard’ in epidemic response

The western media has bashed Asean governments for avoiding any overreaction to the unfolding coronavirus crisis. No doubt, these Southeast Asian states are watching the Chinese government’s progress in containing and finding treatments, monitoring the mortality and recovery rate, while readying responses that may be necessary in the future.
Up to this writing, Thailand has not issued a travel ban on Chinese tourists; it is possible that the Thais are concerned about possible lockdowns in Chinese cities that would prevent Chinese tourists from going to Thailand.

For example, a recent Fortune magazine headline maliciously implies that Asean countries would compromise health for trade and business: “Coronavirus forces China’s neighbors to make tough choices over health, fear and trade.” That is patently false. Without exception, Asean governments will always put their people’s health and welfare first, including the livelihood of the millions who depend on trade, travel and tourism.

Pepe Escobar, a famous globe-trotting investigative reporter, has called China’s responses to the 2019-nCoV crisis as “breathtaking,” while Ghebreyesus has said China is “setting a new standard” for the World in epidemic responses.

WHO: The final health arbiter

Because of such pronouncements, the Western elements attempting to discredit China will need to discredit the WHO also.  For this reason, such headlines as “China Silences Critics Over Coronavirus Outbreak” (New York Times) and “China Strains to Stamp Out Coronavirus Criticisms at Home” (Wall Street Journal) and other Western outlets that disparaged Director General Ghebreyesus by saying “WHO director defends Chinese over coronavirus criticism…”

But what premier expert, professional, impartial and objective institution will serve as chief arbiter to global health issues if not the WHO with its 194 member states?

As President Duterte has said, “They (WHO) have all the information… We cannot act on our own. This is something which would require the discipline by everybody… to follow the governing entity which is the WHO….”

Mario Ferdinand Pasion is a political analyst, director of economic alliance Phil-Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Strategic Studies, and the chairman of the Nationalist Filipinos Against Foreign Intervention.

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