Letter to Editor: Justice for Harlow is wrong on China

Health / Fri 5th Mar 2021 pm31 04:48pm

Dear Editor,

A RECENT (March 4) Facebook post by the Justice for Harlow (JfH) group, a group created in response to Harlow Council’s poor payout of government funded business grants, grabbed my attention due to its Covid-19 related China bashing sentiments.

The demand by this conservative minded group was that China should pay our government’s £400 billion bill for the pandemic response, which given media reporting about China, it might be easy to accept JfH’s demand at face value.

However, I thought if anyone knew anything about China’s response to Covid-19 it would be the World Health Organisation (WHO). Sure enough, the WHO published a report last year on February 28. One of their four main objectives was: “To enhance understanding of the evolving COVID-19 outbreak in China and the nature and impact of ongoing containment measures.”

I was expecting the WHO to be critical of China’s response to Covid-19, but I was blown away by the praise heaped on ChIna. In its assessment, starting on page 16, the WHO reported: “In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.

The strategy that underpinned this containment effort was initially a national approach that promoted universal temperature monitoring, masking, and hand washing. However, as the outbreak evolved, and knowledge was gained, a science and risk-based approach was taken to tailor implementation. Specific containment measures were adjusted to the provincial, county and even community context, the capacity of the setting, and the nature of novel coronavirus transmission there.”

This ambitious containment policy rapidly reduced new cases of Covid-19, with WHO stating: “A particularly compelling statistic is that on the first day of the (WHO) advance team’s work there were 2478 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in China. Two weeks later, on the final day of this Mission, China reported 409 newly confirmed cases. This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”

Also, a major factor in containing the virus is due to the attitude of people with WHO reporting: “Achieving China’s exceptional coverage with and adherence to these containment measures has only been possible due to the deep commitment of the Chinese people to collective action in the face of this common threat.”

Maybe, the more libertarian attitude in western countries is a factor in their higher death rates. The WHO observed this with a chilling statement: “Much of the global community is not yet ready, in mindset and materially, to implement the measures that have been employed to contain COVID-19 in China. “These are the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimize transmission chains in humans. Fundamental to these measures is extremely proactive surveillance to immediately detect cases, very rapid diagnosis and immediate case isolation, rigorous tracking and quarantine of close contacts, and an exceptionally high degree of population understanding and acceptance of these measures.”

Clearly, the mindset in the United Kingdom is one that is not ready to accept the strict curtailment of civil liberties used in China as witnessed by the lobbying of our government for easing of restrictions on a number of occasions, which when acquiesced to has increased infections. 

In my opinion, given the facts, the Facebook post by Justice for Harlow is unreasonable and may unwittingly provide extremists with a green light to harass the Chinese community in Harlow. The very least JfH can do to ameliorate the potential damage is to clarify their post and at best to issue an apology.

You can read the WHO report at:  https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/report-of-the-who-china-joint-mission-on-coronavirus-disease-2019-(covid-19)

David Foreman

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