As much as it is not the time for blame game it is imperative for the global governments to put pressure on China and other Asian countries on their role on the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and similar diseases that spread from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases).
China particularly as the country of origin of the pandemic tried to deflect its role in starting a global pandemic and not telling the world by trying to shut down early whistleblowers and once the pandemic was uncontrollable they tried to shift blame to the United States of America’s military that the US might have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan. The tension created by conspiracy theories offered by the Chinese government led to President Donald Trump terming coronavirus as “Foreign Virus” and later “Chinese Virus” this led to a Twitter exchange with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian who tweeted;
“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao tweeted in English.
Even as tensions escalate between Beijing and Washington, the World Health Organization has advised against terms that link the virus to China or the city of Wuhan, where it was first detected, in order to avoid discrimination or stigmatization. However, it is important to highlight some facts that might save us in the future.
Chinese scientists have traced the potential source of the virus to Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The market sold much more than seafood, including a range of wild animals like live snakes, turtles and cicadas, guinea pigs, bamboo rats, badgers, hedgehogs, otters, palm civets, even wolf cubs. It is highly probable that the virus must have migrated from bats to pangolin to humans causing global havoc to societies and economies.
Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was closed and on January 1st 2020, several weeks later from the first incident and whistleblower report, and China issued a temporary ban on all trade in wild animal products on January 22nd, 2020. China has been accused of slow reaction to coronavirus pandemic costing the world at least two months of preparation. Others are urging for the permanent abolition of wet markets, which play a critical role in the Chinese menu and other Asian nations too. It is important to note that the 2003 ban that led to the explosion of uncontrollable black markets across Asia for “warm meats” as a response to SARS, as well as in 2013-14, in response to avian influenza H7N9 was not successful.
Suppression of the whistleblowers, censorship of doctors and media, slander and smear, and providing inaccurate health data and efforts to delay World Health Organization pronouncements should not be tolerated. As the global infections surpass those in China, we have witnessed Chinese officials try to propagate theories that the virus did not originate within China.
As a global village and as our borders become more porous when we need to collectively advocate for freedom of expression and protection for those who are brave enough to speak on issues that affect us. Heroes like Dr. Li Wenliang who was among eight whistleblowers reprimanded by local authorities for trying to sound the alarm about the deadly coronavirus during December of last year, Dr. Shinu Shyamalan, who works at a private hospital in Thalikkulam, India, Kenya Airways employee, Gire Ali who shared a video of a China Southern flight’s arrival in Nairobi and many more.
As coronavirus hit 183,319 confirmed cases and 7,177 deaths across 162 Countries and Territories around the globe, it is vital that global communities should put to task-independent countries on some of their practices that might put us all at risk as a global community. Domestic practices like eating and trading wild animals for food and suppositious beliefs should be banned or controlled to protect the global community. Suppression of activism should be discouraged and recourse taken on any government trying to curtail the flow of information.