The coronavirus has been on the news recently, with almost 3,000 people in China now confirmed ill and 81 people dead as a result. What’s shocking about this virus is that it is basically the same virus that causes the common cold except, in these cases, it causes severe respiratory problems leading to death.
But what does this have to do with politicians and power, you may be asking?
I wanted to look at this from the angle of the Chinese government and what they have done to stop the spread of the virus. They have now shut down many transport networks, as they should do to prevent the spread of the disease, but have they done this too late? There are at least 44 confirmed cases of the disease outside China already, which would indicate to me that the government acted far too slowly.
The first case of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan on 31st December 2019 and, on the same day, the Chinese government reported this to the WHO (The World Health Organisation). On 1st January, they closed down the market in which they thought the virus originated. On 7th January, the WHO identified the disease as being caused by the coronavirus and on 23rd January some travel restrictions were put in place. However this suspension of transport was not widespread, which allowed the virus to continue to spread. It wasn’t until yesterday that China’s Vice Minister of Transport- Lie Xiaoming- announced that public transport had been completed suspended in China to control the outbreak.
My initial thought was that the Chinese government acted too late and didn’t take enough responsibility for something which could potentially affect the whole world, but then I started to think about why they might have acted the way they did.
To shut down all transport earlier would have been very disruptive to the country as a whole and would have caused people to get frightened, possibly even causing mass hysteria. They needed to wait until they were sure of the seriousness of the situation before taking such a drastic step. They did report the outbreak to the World Health Organisation so presumably they were taking advice from experts into infectious disease.
So is the Chinese Government responsible for the potential epidemic? Should they have acted quicker or did they act in the best interest of the Chinese people? Could they have used their power to do more to prevent this from happening? And if so, what consequences (if any) should there be for those who didn’t take the correct decisions.
What do you think?