On the brink of a pandemic

On the brink of a pandemic

The spread of Coronavirus outside China is alarming. In January, just a few cases of COVID-19 were reported, mainly from East and Southeast Asia, with a handful beyond China’s immediate neighbourhood.

Thirteen weeks after the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in China’s Wuhan, 79,331 confirmed cases and 2,595 deaths due to the disease have been reported, as per the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). China continues to account for the bulk of cases and fatalities; it has identified 77,262 confirmed cases and nearly all the deaths due to the virus so far. Its struggle against the killer virus has not diminished. However, there is some good news coming out of China. The number of new cases in the country is falling. WHO officials have said that the Coronavirus outbreak in China peaked between January 23 and February 2 and the number of new cases has been declining since then. This means that Beijing’s measures to contain the virus, harsh as they were in their implementation, have yielded results. However, some health experts are questioning WHO’s claims on the matter. They believe that it is based on flawed data coming out of China. China is underreporting the number of new cases and fatalities to justify its controversial measures to stem the spread of the disease, they argue.

The spread of Coronavirus outside China is alarming. In January, just a few cases of COVID-19 were reported, mainly from East and Southeast Asia, with a handful beyond China’s immediate neighbourhood. That has changed dramatically over the past week. The number of cases and fatalities has jumped in South Korea, Iran and Italy. WHO, which has labelled the COVID-19 outbreak as a ‘global health emergency’ has warned that the world is on the brink of a ‘pandemic.’ If all countries do not act robustly to contain the global spread of Coronavirus and if a large number of deaths occur outside China in the coming weeks, then the world would be caught in a pandemic, WHO has warned. COVID-19 is claiming lives and is a major drain on resources. It is already undermining economies and businesses, impacting livelihoods and impoverishing people. The impact of a pandemic will be far greater. The window to prevent it from becoming one is narrowing.

 The international community must act swiftly and cooperatively. It is unfortunate that at a time when we should be pulling together to defeat the virus, governments are using the crisis for petty politics and settling scores. The Chinese government’s inordinate delay in permitting an Indian plane to rescue its nationals still stuck in Wuhan is reprehensible. The same flight is to provide China with medicines and relief. Beijing’s slow response to the concerns of other countries is undermining its own battle against COVID-19.

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