A staff member works at a workshop of Sanden Huayu Automotive Air-Conditioning Co., Ltd. in Shanghai, Friday. Sanden Huayu has orderly resumed work and production on the premise of ensuring the safety amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Photo:Xinhua
The coronavirus epidemic is spreading rapidly in Europe. Italy reported 566 new infections on Sunday, a sharp increase. And the numbers of confirmed cases in both France and Germany have surpassed 100.
It’s impossible for European countries to adopt the extreme measures that China has implemented. Public fears are growing, but the patterns of interests in their societies remain complex. Entities and individuals that desire economic profits will hardly support governments to take the most stringent prevention and control measures. If authorities restrict people’s travel to curb the epidemic, the public’s willingness to cooperate might also be a problem.
These concerns will make European governments more hesitant to take action in the face of the epidemic’s further spread, which means the epidemic situation is likely to become worse in Europe and the risk of the virus spreading across the US is also high. In the end, it is possible that all countries will have done what they can do, but will still be unable to stop the spread of the epidemic. COVID-19 may eventually have to be accepted as a flu-like disease in Europe.
If COVID-19 cannot be eradicated this spring and keeps haunting us next winter, the relationship between economic activities and public health might be reshaped and exert a profound influence.
The rapid shift in the situation outside China would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago. We could never imagine that South Korea, Japan and Europe would become the hardest-hit areas apart from China, even as China is starting to get its situation under control.
What will happen in two weeks and in four weeks? What will attract the world attention at that time? These questions remain unclear.
The coronavirus has brought unprecedented uncertainty. Should China persist in clearing all cases as a priority, or should we speed up adjusting the way our society works and prepare for a “protracted war?”
China has such a large society. Except Hubei Province, in the last few days, the rest of the country has been reporting only single-digit new cases per day.
But meanwhile, the public’s panic has not eased, and there are large obstacles to the resumption of work.
Many local officials dare not embrace the complete resumption of production and work, as if there is a new disease cluster, they would be blamed and have to take responsibility for it.
South Korea, Japan, and European countries have suffered fewer losses in economic activities than most parts of China, although they are facing a higher risk from the epidemic than in the Chinese mainland, except for Hubei.
It is uncertain whether their approach of “as much prevention as available” will ultimately lead to a serious humanitarian crisis or help them become resilient to the epidemic. Much will depend on the mortality rate of COVID-19.
After paying a huge price, we have stabilized the situation in China, and we have a breathing space to decide what to do next. China must make the right call, so that it can translate its fully effective discretion into resources and capabilities to cope with variables in the future.
What we have achieved in epidemic prevention and control is the largest foundation for China to resume production and work. We need to rapidly recover the nation’s economic activities and the proportion of the Chinese economy that has resumed operations should be more than that of countries overshadowed by the epidemic.
We should be confident, even though the resumption of production and work comes with risks, as an unbreakable great wall of epidemic prevention has been formed in China by the government’s increased ability in prevention and control, as well as people’s high vigilance to the virus.