World Newsletter

21 March 2020


The strength of China's system, which enables it to pool all available resources to solve major problems, has helped the country address the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, observers said.

The all-of-government and all-of-society approach that China has adopted in combating COVID-19 has won international acclaim as it has proved effective and efficient in curbing the spread of the virus, they said.

As China battles the novel coronavirus, its model of central leadership and regional partnerships has functioned well.

Since the start of the outbreak, President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has acted as commander-in-chief in the people's war on the epidemic.

During his inspection tour last week in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province and also the hardest-hit city in China, Xi said epidemic prevention and control is "a major test of China's system and capacity for governance".

He urged officials to gain experience and draw lessons from the epidemic response and strengthen the weaknesses in governance systems to protect people's lives, safety and health.

Xi said on various occasions that the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the advantages of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the country's strong mobilization capabilities are factors that would lead China to prevail over the epidemic and maintain good momentum for socioeconomic development.

Behind Xi's strong confidence in securing full victory in the battle is his commitment to mobilizing the people of the whole country, Party and army.

After Hubei province, particularly its capital Wuhan, was hit by the contagion, more than 340 medical teams consisting of over 42,600 medical workers from across the country rushed to the area, answering the call of the central government. That number included at least 4,000 medical staff members deployed by the People's Liberation Army.

China's large corporations, especially State-owned enterprises, contributed to containment logistics, and Chinese scientists rapidly sequenced the virus genome and shared the data globally.

With transprovincial help, two prefab hospitalseach with more than 1,000 bedswere built in Wuhan in around 10 days to treat patients in serious condition. Sixteen temporary hospitals were established in the city's exhibition halls and sports auditoriums to admit more infected people.

Nineteen provinces formed partnerships with 16 Hubei cities and counties to help them when medical resources were overstretcheda customary practice that China follows in mobilizing nationwide resources for disaster relief.

With experts recommending quarantine measures to help reduce the population movements, in turn helping to stem the spread of the virus, the CPC Central Committee made the decision on Jan 22 to ask Hubei province to take comprehensive and rigorous measures to stop outbound travel to prevent the disease from rapidly spreading in other regions.

Xi said at a meeting in February that making such a decision demands tremendous political courage, but "times call for resolute action; otherwise, we would be in trouble".

On Jan 23, authorities in Wuhan announced the lockdown of the city. All public transportation was suspended and citizens were required to stay indoors to avoid neighborhood transmission of the virus.


United States President Donald Trump's recent labeling of the novel coronavirus pneumonia pandemic as originating from a "Chinese virus" has triggered widespread backlash from the international community.

Officials and commentators worldwide used words like "racist" and "xenophobic" to describe the term and said it is part of Washington's attempt to shift blame to China for its delayed, inefficient response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of terms such as "COVID-19" or "coronavirus", the US top leader used the term in both his Wednesday and Thursday news conferences at the White House as well as in some recent tweets, and he publicly rejected reporters' questions about whether the term was racist.

The World Health Organization gave the name COVID-19 to novel coronavirus pneumonia on Feb 11, when WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said it was both for scientific purposes and also to "avoid a number of different stigmatizing or other forms of confusing names".

US Democrats have slammed Trump and other Republicans for using "Chinese" or "Wuhan" when referring to the virus in public statements and social media posts.

Former US vice-president Joe Biden on Wednesday condemned Trump's comments and urged him to "take responsibility" for his actions.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also tweeted on Wednesday that Trump was attempting to distract people from his administration's slow response to the pandemic.

"The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis," she tweeted. "Don't fall for it. Don't let your friends and family fall for it."

Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, said on Thursday that viruses don't have a nationality and don't care about borders.

"COVID-19 is not a Chinese virus, as the Spanish flu was not Spanish," he tweeted. "We all face a massive threat that requires global cooperation and all of us working hand in hand."

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said on Thursday: "COVID-19 is COVID-19." He said trying to link a nation to the illness "is disgraceful."

The term used by Trump is "the sort of language which leads to incitement and hatred toward people of Chinese origin", Khan said when answering questions from members of the London Assembly about the pandemic.

"We are a city which celebrates our diversity and we think it is a strength, not a weakness. It's really important that we do not fall into the trap of some to use this virus as an excuse to denigrate, demean and humiliate people," the mayor added.


The Chinese mainland has seen no homegrown infections of COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, for three straight days, as the latest data of the National Health Commission showed.

Imported cases, however, keep increasing and are on a generally upward trend in the past week despite fluctuations.

The daily increase of imported cases reached a record high of 41, bringing up the caseload on the Chinese mainland to 81,008, the commission said.

Beijing saw another 14 imported cases on Friday, followed by Shanghai with nine. Another six provinces also registered cases coming from abroad on the day.

Regions outside Hubei province on the Chinese mainland have counted no homegrown infections in the past nine straight days.

With seven more fatalities on Friday, a total of 3,255 people have succumbed to the virus on the Chinese mainland, the commission said.

Another 590 people were discharged from hospitals over the course of Friday, bringing up the number of recovered patients to 71,740, it added.

With a daily reduction of 173 patients exhibiting serious symptoms, the number of patients that need intensive care now stands at 1,963. In total, 6,013 patients are still hospitalized.

With another 36 suspected cases counted on Friday, there are now 106 suspected infections.

Among the 685,866 people who have so far been traced as close contacts with the infected, 9,371 are still under medical observation, it said.

In Hubei, areas outside its capital Wuhan, the hardest-hit city on the Chinese mainland, have seen no cases for 16 days in a row.

On Friday, seven more patients died of the pathogen in the province, bringing up the total fatalities to 3,139. The caseload in the province now is 67,800, the commission said.

With six more deaths, the death toll in Wuhan has reached 2,504. The case count in the city now stands at 50,005.


An employee of a biotech company in the United States, who is under criminal investigation by Beijing police for concealing her novel coronavirus symptoms during a flight to China, has been dismissed by her company.

Biogen, a drugmaker based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement on Sina Weibo on Friday that the 37-year-old, surnamed Li, was an employee of the company, but she made the decision to travel to China without informing the company and ignored the guidance of health experts.

Her behavior is against the company's values, and she is no longer an employee of Biogen, it said.

Li, a Chinese citizen living in Massachusetts, flew to Beijing on March 12 with her husband and son to seek treatment after one of her US colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus.

She had a fever but lied to the crew about her health status and took a drug to reduce her fever before boarding. She also initially hid the fact that she was traveling with her husband and son on the same flight.

She tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Beijing and is now being treated, and her husband was later confirmed to be infected with the virus.

According to a government guideline issued on Monday, overseas passengers are subject to temperature screening, health declaration and epidemiological investigation across checkpoints. People who refuse to receive isolated observation or fail to truthfully fill out their health declaration forms at border checkpoints could face criminal penalties.

In Li's case, police have launched an investigation against her for obstructing infectious disease prevention and putting fellow travelers at risk of infection.

Earlier this week an employee of Bayer, a German chemical and pharmaceutical company, was fired and asked to leave China for breaking the coronavirus quarantine.

After returning to her residence in Beijing last week from abroad, the 47-year-old Chinese Australian woman surnamed Liang was seen jogging in the residential quarter without a mask when she was supposed to be quarantined at home for 14 days.

The video of her refusing to follow quarantine went viral online, and Bayer China on Tuesday decided to fire her.

Liang was also asked to leave China within a specified period of time by Beijing police and her work-related residence permit was revoked.


Chinese soccer player Wu Lei, who played for Spanish club Espanyol, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Spanish local media.

Wu Lei is one of four Espanyol players confirmed to have been infected with the virus, according to the La Liga club. He is in stable condition and resting at home.

Espanyol confirmed on Wednesday six members of the club stuff have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wu Lei is the only Chinese national playing in one of the top five major European football leagues.


Premier Li Keqiang on Friday called for stronger financial support for small, medium-sized and micro businesses to help them recover from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, a key measure to stabilize the job market and ensure unimpeded industrial and supply chains.

Li made the remark during a visit to government offices tasked with ensuring epidemic containment, providing daily necessities, promoting the resumption of work and production, and coordinating the implementation of macroeconomic policies in Beijing.

The premier underlined the importance of giving play to the role of market mechanisms and ensuring market supply across the board to continue to meet demand from epidemic containment and the general public.

Through a video link, he spoke with executives of Guangzhou Automobile Group and Foxconn Technology Group to learn about the situation of employees getting back to work and further favorable policies the government could offer.

A major problem facing companies, the executives said, is the plight faced by smaller enterprises and micro businesses, which resulted in shortages in the supply of parts for larger companies.

SMEs and micro businesses are the primary creators of jobs and a crucial link in the industrial and supply chains, Li said.

He urged relevant departments to adopt measures to ensure businesses, either big or small, resume work in a coordinated manner as well as bring about the unimpeded flow of market elements across regions and sectors.

Local authorities must synchronize efforts to contain the epidemic and resume work and production while keeping up with the needed health monitoring and emergency response forces, he said.

Temporary restrictions must be lifted in an orderly manner based on changes in the epidemic situation, the premier said, adding that unreasonable barriers must be removed.

The reform to streamline administration and bolster compliance oversight and government services must be moved forward so as to better energize market players and help businesses get back to work at full production capacity, he said.

With COVID-19 now a pandemic and turmoil in global financial markets widespread, Li said the government's coordinated mechanism for macro policies must closely follow the latest developments in the global economy and financial markets and come up with analysis and response strategies.

The government must further refine its policy portfolio in expanding domestic demand and promoting opening-up to spur a rebound of the economy and maintain a stable job market, he said.


Two airportsone in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and the other in Tianjintwo cities not far from Beijing, began accommodating rerouted inbound flights on Friday amid the latest efforts to ease the capital's growing pressure from increasing imported infections of COVID-19.

Flight CA910 from Moscow was diverted to land in Tianjin on Saturday and Flight CA926 from Tokyo landed in Hohhot on Friday, after a notice was issued by five government departments, including the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the General Administration of Customs on Thursday.

In addition, on Sunday, Tianjin will receive rerouted Flight CA934 from Paris and Hohhot will receive rerouted Flight CA926 from Tokyo.

Another airport not far from BeijingTaiyuan, Shanxi provinceis also scheduled to receive rerouted Flight HU7976 on Saturday and Sunday from Toronto, the notice said.

Rerouted passengers and crew will be subject to health and quarantine processes at the three Chinese airports.

Confirmed novel coronavirus cases will be sent to local designated hospitals, while those with symptoms or having had close contact with confirmed cases will be sent to designated quarantine areas in the three cities, it said.

Rerouted passengers and crew who pass through the processes with no symptoms will be flown to Beijing at no additional cost.

The Civil Aviation Administration further explained the importance of rerouting some international flights to nearby airports, saying it can help contain imported COVID-19 infections, improve the capacity to secure the health of passengers and help promote efficiency of customs clearance.

Amid the ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus, Beijing Capital International Airport receives 205 international flights from 33 countries weekly, making the capital subject to unprecedented risks in tackling imported cases, the civil aviation authority said.

Tianjin announced on Friday it would upgrade its quarantine and health check protocols for possible imported cases of the novel coronavirus in response to the latest measures.

Wang Haozhe, vice-general manager of Tianjin Binhai International Airport, said, "The airport has cleared out special channels and zones to help with the quarantine, checks and transfer of those newly added passengers to appointed hotels or hospitals."

"We have set up four batches of special plans for aircraft, passengers, cargo and their personal belongings based on the experience accumulated from our recent measures for several aircraft from South Korea," Wang said.

Taiyuan's health commission announced on Thursday it has appointed two hospitals to receive confirmed cases from the flights, and some hotels and local emergency rescue centers are ready to begin quarantine and transfer of infected passengers.

Along with the rerouting of flights, China's civil aviation authorities announced a cap on the number of inbound flights to the country on Friday.

All Chinese and overseas airlines will be required to maintain their current level of international flights or cut them back, based on this week's flight plans for Monday to Sunday.


The years teach much which the days never knew. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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