Transparency is the 'cure' for coronavirus, says Tsinghua expert
World Insight with Tian Wei
China is racing to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, as the number of confirmed cases rises in major cities. The outbreak came amid China's Spring Festival travel rush, raising fears that the pace of infection will intensify.
On Wednesday, China's State Council said as of January 22, nine people have died from the new type of coronavirus and 440 cases have been confirmed in China.
Although there are inevitable fears over the spread, the response of Chinese authorities has in fact been transparent and resolute, said Xue Lan, professor and dean of Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University.
CGTN's senior correspondent Tian Wei sat down with Professor Xue on the sideline of Davos 2020. The country's leading expert on public policy and management emphasized largely on transparency and accountability.
While it's important to alleviate unnecessary fears and panic, it's also vital for the public to acknowledge the realistic potential risks of the novel coronavirus. Professor Xue highlighted the biggest challenge facing the government agencies, as to how balancing transparency and confidentiality is becoming a "dilemma." The solution to this dilemma is to be transparent – let the public acknowledge what they need to know, what was known, and what is still unknown. Transparency could be the "cure" for panic and misinformation, a lesson learnt from 2003 SARS pandemic.
"I could see the dilemma that relevant government agencies are facing. On one hand, they don't want to create unnecessary panic in public, especially at this time of the year; they don't want to exaggerate the situation. On the other hand, you don't want the public to underestimate potential risks. I think the lesson we learnt from SARS is that we shouldn't be afraid of telling the public, and we should try to provide as much information as possible. Only through honest and transparent communication can the trust be established with the public who can rely on the information from authorities, not the rumors," Professor Xue told CGTN in an exclusive interview.
Meanwhile in China, the virus is also making headlines on social media. Users on social media have been largely offering health advice and calling for basic health precautions, while there's also widespread praise for medical professionals who are being lauded as "heroes." According to Professor Xue, apart from mainstream media, social media is now at the forefront of providing timely information about the disease.
"The government's communication with the general public doesn't really need to rely on the mainstream media outlets; they can use social media platforms to provide information when necessary," Professor Xue said.
The Chinese government has already taken measures to control coronavirus. Authorities are concerned that the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, during which hundreds of millions of Chinese celebrate the lunar new year, could exacerbate the crisis. However, this is certainly not a moment for panic; it's a moment for vigilance.
World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through 45-minute live debate and interviews.
Time (GMT): 1415, 2015
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