China reacted swiftly to the threat of a new coronavirus, quickly notified the World Health Organization, and took the necessary steps to contain and eliminate the virus within China. The Chinese government was praised by the World Health Organization for their effective measures, transparency and cooperation. Because of China’s actions, the rest of the world had time to prepare – and wasted it.

From the World Health Organization meeting on January 30, 2020:

Representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China reported on the current situation and the public health measures being taken. There are now 7711 confirmed and 12167 suspected cases throughout the country. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and 170 people have died. 124 people have recovered and been discharged from hospital. 

The Committee welcomed the leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of Chinese government, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made to investigate and contain the current outbreak. China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in the rapid development of diagnostic tools. 

The very strong measures the country has taken include daily contact with WHO and comprehensive multi-sectoral approaches to prevent further spread. It has also taken public health measures in other cities and provinces; is conducting studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, and sharing data and biological material. The country has also agreed to work with other countries who need their support. The measures China has taken are good not only for that country but also for the rest of the world.

The WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at this meeting.

Key Dates

December 26, 2019 – 4 unusual cases of pneumonia were noticed by Dr. Jixian Zhang.

December 27, 2019 – Dr. Zhang reported the cases to the local CDC.

December 31, 2019 – The World Health Organization was notified.

January 7, 2020 – The virus is identified.

January 12, 2020 – The genetic sequence of the virus is identified and shared.

January 13, 2020 – Test kits are available.

January 23, 2020 – 259 new cases for a total of 830 in China – Wuhan City is shut down.

January 24, 2020 – 15 other cities shut down, new cases immediately plummet.

January 30, 2020 – WHO declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The spread of the virus in China was almost completely stopped in a few weeks. There were almost no new infections occurring by February 11. Almost all new cases now are from returning travelers.

Western capitalist countries like the US, Spain and Italy show a stark contrast with China. They had the warning, and failed to adequately prepare. Once the virus hit their countries, they did not react effectively. They did not have the capacity to test in the numbers required. They did not provide the necessary resources to health care professionals on the front lines. They had inadequate ICU beds, and their hospitals became overwhelmed.

This should not have been a surprise. “America is about to get a godawful lesson in why health care should never be a for-profit business” was the February 27, 2020 headline on a Mark Sumner article in the Daily Kos. That day the US had 60 cases of Covid-19 and no deaths.

The forecast was terribly accurate.

As of today, the US has reported by far the largest number of Covid-19 cases of any country in the world – 141,781. The number is still accelerating. The total number of new cases reported in the US from Wednesday, March 25 to Sunday, March 29 is 83,918 – more than the total number of cases in China (81,439).

China has had 3,300 fatalities from the Covid-19 pandemic. That is now dwarfed by the number of fatalities in Italy (10,779) and Spain (6,803). The US will pass China’s fatality numbers in a few days. The UK currently has 1,228 deaths – and yesterday at the daily press conference on Covid-19 at Downing Street, the national medical director, Prof Stephen Powis said: “If we can keep deaths below 20,000 we will have done very well in this epidemic.”

The disparity is even more shocking if we look at the numbers on a per capita basis.

China was able to bring the pandemic under control and limit the number of cases to 57 per million of population. Their fatality rate is 2 per million of population. This chart shows the comparable numbers for some Western countries. The numbers will be much larger before long, since the pandemic is still spreading rapidly in these countries.

Number of cases Number of deaths Cases per million Deaths per million
China 81,439 3,300 57 2
Spain 80,110 6,803 1,713 146
Italy 97,689 10,779 1,616 178
United States 141,781 2,471 428 7

Numbers as of March 29, 2020 at 7:45 pm from Worldometer.

Not only did the government of the People’s Republic of China act decisively and effectively to deal with the outbreak of Covid-19 in their country, they also swiftly identified and sequenced the virus and shared that information with the world through the World Health Organization. Once the virus was contained, the Chinese government went further in offering support and aid to other countries dealing with the pandemic. China has sent two teams of medical experts to Italy to share their Covid-19 treatment experience. China has provided medical equipment to many other countries, including a shipment that arrived in Canada March 27.