As of February 17 the Coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, had killed 1,868 people in the Peoples Republic, according to the PRC National Health Commission. Chinese state television reported that Liu Zhiming, the director of the Wuhan hospital specifically assigned to deal with Corona, has succumbed to the virus, the seventh health worker there to perish.
The Reuters news agency reported that China’s lockdown of cities and tough curbs on travel have limited the spread of the virus outside the Wuhan region. But it added that the disease has resulted in great cost to the economy and global business.
“More than two dozen trade fairs and industry conferences worldwide have been postponed,” according to Reuters, “because of travel curbs and concerns about the spread of the virus.” Coronavirus so far has caused fatalities in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and as far away as France. Outside of China, there were 827 corona virus cases in 26 countries as of February 17.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director General, says: “We need our collective knowledge, insight and experience to answer questions (about the virus) we don’t have answers to, and to answer questions we may not even realize we need to ask.”
Symptoms of the deadly disease begin as a common virus identifiable as an infection in one’s nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Global experts on corona met at WHO’s Geneva headquarters February 11 and 12. Their goal:
- To assess current knowledge of the international community about the new virus.
- To agree on critical research questions that need to be answered urgently, and
- To work together to fund and accelerate globally priority research to limit the number of Corona cases and prepare for future new outbreaks.
A Glimpse at the Gravity of the Crisis
The Washington Post reports that virologist Matthew Friedman at the University of Maryland has permission from an internal biosafety committee to begin experiments with Coronavirus in his secure laboratory. He uses samples of the virus arriving to his center in small, sealed tubes.
As of February 15, reports were that more than 66,000 cases of the disease have been reported, nearly all of them in China. Among the fatalities is the young Chinese doctor who first alerted authorities there of the scope of the disease, Li Wenliang. He was reprimanded, then thrown into prison, days before his death on February 6.
The Economist reported:
“There was nationwide soul-searching when the Wuhan opthalmalogist told Chinese media, days before his death, that silencing truth-tellers can make a whole country sick.”
In a February 16 New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted that Dr. Li’s treatment by the PRC caused widespread public outrage in the Peoples Republic of China. “Some Chinese,” Kristof reported, “make the point that if Dr. Li had been in charge of China rather than President Xi Jinping, many lives might have been saved.”
Mr. Kristof then quoted a law professor in Beijing, Xu Zhangrun, as saying in an on-line essay that was immediately banned: “The level of popular fury is volcanic, and a people thus enraged may, in the end also cast aside their fear.” Professor Xu has since been arrested and jailed.
The law professor, according to columnist Kristof, “cast aside his own fear, correctly predicting he would face new punishments but adding: “I cannot remain silent.” He urged PRC citizens to demand free speech and free elections. The professor has since been seized and imprisoned by PRC authorities.
According to CNBC, PRC President Xi has insisted China will win the fight against the Coronavirus epidemic, saying he will adopt more decisive measures to contain the disease, including a speedup in development of drugs that so far “have had relatively good clinical effects against the virus.”
This statement, several weeks after the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, was issued shortly after the PRC’s National Health Commission said it has confirmed more than 3,000 new cases and almost 100 more deaths caused by the virus. The continuing crisis has emboldened even imprisoned China freedom activists, including Professor Xu.
“The salvation of the PRC,” the professor is quoted in a Washington Post editorial, “is for China to embrace constitutional democracy,” that he adds “should include press freedom, freedom of citizen association and assembly, and an end to secret police surveillance and respect for basic rights, including the right to vote in open elections.
“In the end,” Mr. Xu is quoted as saying: “it is about freedom.” He urges the Chinese people to “rage against injustice… let your lives hopefully someday be borne with a flame of decency, break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More