Important updates on COVID-19 | Chinese, American medical experts compare notes

Asia and Oceania Coronavirus Watch

By the end of 29 March there had been 81,470 confirmed cases, including 2,396 patients who were still being treated, 723 confirmed cases are imported cases from aboard,

168 were still suspected of being infected with the virus, 3,304 deaths and a total of 75,770 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

29 March saw:

  • 31 new confirmed cases, 30 of them are imported cases from aboard,
  • 4 deaths —- all in Hubei Province,
  • 17 new suspected cases,
  • 322 people were discharged from hospital after recovery. 
  • 19,235 close contacts were still under medical observation. On Friday, 1575 people were discharged from medical observation.

By the end of 29 March, 641 confirmed cases including 4 deaths had been reported in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), 38 confirmed cases in the Macao SAR, and 298 in Taiwan, including 3 deaths.

According to the WHO’s situation report on 29 March, 1 new countries/territories/areas from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. 

Globally there had been 634,835 confirmed (63,159 new) cases, including 29,957 deaths (3,464 new).

China shows responsible behaviour as a global power: experts

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit illustrates China’s role as a responsible country, experts have said.

Xi put forth four proposals at Thursday’s summit via video. He called on G20 members to be resolute in fighting an all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak, forge a concerted global effort to control and treat the virus, support the leading role of international organizations to tackle the pandemic, and bolster coordination of global macro-economic policy.

“Xi’s speech during the summit is a good example of the global power’s responsible behavior,” said Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan, chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies of Armenia.

Xi’s emphasis on international solidarity and China’s large-scale assistance to other nations in the fight against COVID-19 “are of utmost importance,” the expert said, expressing appreciation for China’s efforts and sacrifices in battling the epidemic which has bought time for other nations to be better prepared.

Xi’s call for all G20 members to restore confidence in the global economy by cutting tariffs, removing barriers and facilitating unfettered flow of trade, shows the world what a truly responsible major country should do under Xi’s leadership, said Constanza Jorquera, a scholar at the School of Politics of at Diego Portales University in Chile.

China’s anti-epidemic measures such as locking down hard-hit cities and imposing large-scale quarantines once drew criticism, but the measures have proven necessary during the crisis, Jorquera said.

Xi’s emphasis on China’s efforts to stabilize the global economy, his proposal to enhance macro-economic policy coordination, and his call for G20 members to work collectively, are needed to instigate a global recovery, said Maher Al-Haj, general manager of Al-Atta’a Foundation, affiliated to Dar Al-Watan for Press and Publication.

Echoing Xi’s remarks, Fadi Qattar, CEO of Muscat Media Group, said that victory over the global epidemic requires cooperation and support of all countries, leaders and people.

Xi’s proposal for holding a G20 health ministers’ meeting demonstrates China’s commitment to fighting the pandemic and advancing the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, said Swaran Singh, professor at the Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The fact that G20 leaders have already accepted the proposal reflects their satisfaction with China’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, the expert added.

China’s success has brought hope to humankind, enabling the country to play a leading role in the global fight against COVID-19, Singh said.

Xi’s speech reflects China’s humanitarian spirit and moral principles in dealing with international and regional issues, said George Alam, a writer and political analyst from Lebanon.

Countries and leaders should respond to the Chinese president’s call to take a more unified approach to limit the impact of the crisis on the global economy, Alam said.

Xi’s call for an all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak is an invitation for countries to set aside their own interests and strive for the greater well-being of humanity, said Kamel Mhanna, president of Amel Association International, a Lebanese non-governmental organization.

“The Chinese president presents a truly remarkable human model” to combat the pandemic, Mhanna said.

Chinese, American medical experts compare notes

Medical experts in China’s Wuhan held a video conference with their counterparts in State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University Saturday, sharing experience of COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

The conference was hosted by Lawrence Chin from SUNY’s Upstate Medical University, and joined by over 90 doctors in New York.

The two sides exchanged views on topics including early identification, early diagnosis, imageological examination, drug use, hormone therapy, immune adjustment, plasma exchange and ECMO treatment.

As one of the major battlefields in combating COVID-19, hospitals in Wuhan have accumulated rich clinical treatment experience which they would like to discuss and share with American counterparts, said Hu Yu, president of the Union Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

It was the eighth video conference held by the Wuhan hospital, which has shared its COVID-19 treatment experience with universities and hospitals in countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

‘Learn from China’

COVID-19-hit countries should “learn from China” as the pandemic has been tightening its grip on the world, said Ahu Ozyurt, a famous Turkish journalist.

Given that the European Union is facing a big test, “there are lots of lessons they could learn from China,” said Ozyurt, who has more than 440,000 followers on Twitter.

“China’s discipline in the fight against this virus and its ability to generate new ideas should be discussed more,” she added.

Many countries, such as Italy and Spain, have learnt valuable experience from China, Ozyurt noted, saying that Beijing could share more on how to curb the spread of the virus step by step.

More than 30,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported worldwide, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE).

China resumes pharmaceuticals production

China will strive to maintain the stable domestic production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and ensure the security of the global supply chain, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said Monday.

Currently, more than 80 percent of China’s pharmaceutical ingredients production has resumed, with the output of some products having surpassed the level recorded in the same period last year, Xin Guobin, vice minister of the MIIT, told a press briefing.

In particular, China has prioritized the supply of drugs used to combat COVID-19, he said.

Having more than 1,500 production enterprises, China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pharmaceutical ingredients with an annual output of around 3 million tonnes, according to the vice minister.

The MIIT will further solve difficulties facing enterprises, enhance coordination with relevant international agencies and work to increase the supply to the international market, he said.

A boost for medical supply chains

China has boosted its international air freight capacity to ensure the smooth operation of global medical supply chains amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Thursday, China has carried out 23 international transport tasks of medical supplies with an accumulated transport amount of 406 tonnes, Zhang Qing, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told a press conference Sunday.

Noting the insufficient international air freight capacity and impeded shipment channels due to the outbreak, China will continue to add more charter flights and open new air routes to guarantee the smooth transport of living necessities and medical supplies, said Jin Jinghua, a senior official with the State Post Bureau.

At present, domestic- and-foreign-owned international cargo flights in China total 930 per week, which is close to the level recorded before the outbreak, Zhang noted.

USA vs. Covid-19: Political interests against the health of millions

The confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US have surpassed that of China, making the former the country with the most infections in the world. In such a grim epidemic situation, US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he hopes to “have the country opened up” by April 12, Easter Sunday. The plan obviously places political interests above the health of millions of Americans.

In China, with strong leadership and execution from the central to the local level, the government has been devoted to epidemic containment at all costs, even at the expense of economic interests, to protect its people from harm of the virus. In contrast, in the US, many politicians in power care more about their own short-term benefits – such as whether they can be re-elected or not, and always put their personal interests above the health and even lives of Americans.

Since the epidemic has spread in the US, most of the Trump administration’s containment measures have been made out of consideration of their political agendas.

Initially, the Trump administration’s strategy was to guard by all means against any negative impact on the US economy and society that the outbreak could possibly have, as the public’s panic might adversely affect his polls. Specifically, he played down the epidemic risks and dealt with the outbreak in a very slow manner. Various problems, such as poor internal coordination and a serious shortage of test kits, have surfaced and thus made the country lose valuable time. His government’s response at that stage were basically a dereliction of duty.

As the outbreak began to spin out of control, many US states started to take action. And the Trump administration finally adopted some strong measures, such as declaring a national emergency, releasing an economic stimulus plan, and issuing 15-day social distancing guidelines. These steps were more likely forced by the changes in the situation, and most importantly, the turbulence in the stock market. The meltdown sounded an alarm for Trump, making him realize that a slow response will only hurt the economy, and then his re-election.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the US topped 100,000 on Friday, with a daily increase of more than 10,000 for several days. Trump’s eagerness to ease the social distancing guidelines at this time exposes the dilemma he faces: It is hard to walk a fine line between curbing the epidemic and saving the economy.

On the one hand, if the virus continues to spread rapidly, Americans will lose confidence in him. On the other, if he takes extreme measures, even if the epidemic is brought under control fairly quickly, the economy will suffer, and his popularity will languish, as economic growth and the stock market used to be at the heart of Trump’s chances.

Some in the US have been calling for a lockdown of the entire country and a suspension of most economic activities. But the Trump administration is obviously reluctant to go that far. The President’s plan is likely a test of public opinion, checking if it is possible to undo the economic damage and support his re-election.

However, Trump’s Easter deadline has already drawn criticism from local officials and is very unlikely to be realized. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy then it’s no contest, no American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life because no American is going to say how much a life is worth.” At the current stage where many US states are in a state of emergency, Trump’s call for resumption of work will hardly get a response. At most, some government agencies and institutions at the federal level might recover at Trump’s request.