Global crisis requires international solidarity
Updated 11:24, 26-Dec-2020

There are many reasons to look back at 2020, but this year is likely to be remembered for just one thing: the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are more than 79 million confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

How has the world responded to the pandemic?

Where the two worlds meet

At the early stage of the pandemic, Italy was the hardest-hit country in Europe. Doctors were eager to learn from China's experience.

"Can we ask you to write down which kind of mask and protection suits you wear in the intensive care unit and in the ward?" asked Dr. Enrico Ammirati with Niguarda Hospital in Milan during a teleconference. They wanted to know how they can protect medical staff, and their Chinese colleagues were happy to share the knowledge they accumulated from their own experience dealing with the virus.

"We are medical workers at the front line who have a lot to share. I think I have the obligation to share what I've learned with doctors around the globe," said Zhou Ning, a physician at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei Province.

The story of Wuhan

The first coronavirus cases in China emerged in Wuhan. In an effort to curb the spread of the then little-known virus, the city was locked down at 10:00 a.m. on January 23, just one day before the Chinese New Year's Eve. It was a hard decision but fast action was imperative.

Doctors and nurses worked non-stop to save lives as Wuhan residents did their part to keep the city running.

Their sacrifices were not in vain.

The drastic measures proved to be effective. The number of new patients in China continued to decrease. But a new challenge was ahead as the country needed to prepare for a rise in cases originating from overseas.

Viruses do not respect borders and COVID-19 was unknown and with obscure ways of transmission.

But China's experience meant other countries didn't have to start their battles from scratch, without knowledge or understanding.

The SARS lesson

A global public health problem needs an international solution. No one can stand alone. China understands this because China was once alone.

In 2003, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, broke out in China. First Guangdong and Beijing, then the world. There were over 8,000 confirmed cases and 774 deaths.

At the time, China's public health system was still being built. The economy was growing rapidly. But the country had almost no experience in handling such a public health emergency.

The authorities were slow to respond and the process of information exchange was frustrating. It took more than three months for the government to work with the WHO and disclose all cases. And the public wasn't fully aware of how to protect themselves from the deadly virus. 

Walter Ian Lipkin, known as the "virus hunter," was there to help China in 2003. When Zhao Fengxian, a Chinese researcher, invited him, he agreed immediately.

After the outbreak, he helped China to upgrade its public health infrastructure and provided medical training to his fellow professionals.

Seventeen years later, he returned to China, with the same commitment to help the Chinese people. As an old friend, he has witnessed the progress China has made from SARS to COVID-19.

"I think China, she did draw a lesson from SARS 17 years ago. We have much better science now than we did then. We have more scientists. We have laboratories where people can study infectious diseases. We have better diagnostic tools," said Lipkin in an interview with CGTN.

China has learned the value of cooperation the hard way. That's why when other countries call for help, it doesn't hesitate to lend a helping hand.

During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, China sent more than 1,200 medical staff and experts to hard-hit areas. They provided training to more than 13,000 people in combating the virus.

A new test

The COVID-19 outbreak is a new and much more challenging test. But unlike 17 years ago, the country is better prepared and the level of commitment has been unprecedented.

China has been quick to share available information on the virus to the international community.

This time, more people understand the fight requires a global, coordinated approach.

Countries like Japan, South Korea, Russia and members of the European Union have donated much-needed medical supplies to China. Chinese expats across the world have donated resources to their home country through their personal connections.

And when racism and prejudice against Asians rose, many decided to act: they are "The Guardian Angels," a voluntary crime-prevention group.

When the cases outside China surged, it was China's responsibility to send experts to high-risk areas and share its knowledge.

To help Iran, where health care infrastructure is limited, China sent a team of medical experts to assist the country in constructing a medical system sufficient for tackling the virus. Test kits, disinfectants and other supplies were shipped to Tehran by the Chinese government, after hundreds of thousands of masks were donated by the China-Iran business community.

When Japan's numbers began to spiral, China donated 5,000 sets of protective gear and 100,000 face masks to its neighbor at the early stage of the pandemic.

As the old Chinese saying goes, "all under heaven are of one family." Instead of hyping "decoupling" rhetoric, China has worked to unite the world with its actions. This is China's solution to the world, but it shouldn't be only China's.

Different countries have different political systems. It's true. But this doesn't alter the simple logic: the entire world is in the same boat in the fight against the virus.

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