The world is currently suffering a severe clamp-down by the global pandemic known as Coronavirus. First diagnosed in Wuhan China and called Covid-19, this more intense form of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), is going down history as the most memorable affliction on the 21st-century mankind.
It is agreeable that by the 24th of March 2020, barely 12 weeks after been hit by the virus, China has gained control over the outbreak and is currently sending aid abroad. Presently, the pandemic is a global concern for other countries of the world and can only be fought by funnelling technology, health and social security into rigorous citizen compliance. Even so valuable are the great lessons from the Chinese experience.
What lessons can be picked from the Chinese drawing board?
With over 90 per cent recovery from the Covid-19 virus, China can earn admiration from the combination of several strategies comprising of stringent health management, technology, public health and good governance in fighting the dreaded infection.
Here are some of the critical facts of Chinese success.
Speed And Accuracy – Keys To Identification And Detection
Within a week of identifying the unknown virus, China successfully sequenced it and reported the genetic information to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite lacking test kits in the early days of the viral spread, the National Medical Products Administration of China took immediate action to speed up the work of biotech companies to develop detection kits. The first kit was introduced on 13 January. The test kit helped to reduce the risk of infecting health practitioners, the quick turnaround time for the test result, and it helped in saving cost.
China’s unprecedented systematic and proactive risk management, based on collaboration between government officials and health experts, has proven to be effective in containing and controlling COVID-19. Further steps taken by China include: Providing clear guidance about the degree and scope of the lockdown, the tracing of cases down to individual apartments, houses, communities, organisations, public facilities and city management. China also kept food and supplies flowing through organised, government-controlled arrangements.
There was also a designation of infectious disease care and management facilities to isolate, monitor and treat positive cases. They also established effective and centralised reporting and communication channels to keep citizens informed.
The role of Information Technology – Big Data
All Chinese citizens are issued with a unique 18-digit Citizen Identity Number which stays with them for their whole life. This national identification code follows a set pattern from which some necessary information can be determined, such as an address, order code, and date of birth. During the crisis, China government installed CCTV camera point at the apartment door of those under a 14-day quarantine to ensure they don’t leave.
Another notable work the Chinese did was to establish health QR for everyone in the city. These digital barcodes on mobile apps highlight the health status of individuals; the green code allows you to move freely. The yellow code requires a seven-day self-quarantine. The red code needs a 14-day self-quarantine. The yellow and red codes can be turned green after the quarantine time.
This health surveillance system has been applied in most cities in Zhejiang Province and will be implemented in other provinces.
Individual must monitor and record their temperature and update their profile daily to maintain their health status level. Government authority and Health workers closely monitor the health database.
Although commendable, such high degree of Artificial Intelligence Algorithm goes with compromise on high volumes of private information and might not be welcomed by other free existing democracies. No wonder the Aljazeera report titled- We’re watching you: COVID-19 surveillance raises privacy fears.
Implementation of Preventive Measures
China quickly understood that everyone has accountability and shares the same risk. They realised that COVID-19 is very contagious and capable of asymptomatic spread; it is essential to get everyone involved in the process. For example, the effective implementation of prevention and control measures in Hangzhou, a city of 10 million people, is a model for other parts of the world to follow.
In Hangzhou, employees went back to work in several phases while imposing that other business, organisations, schools and universities ensure work and learning continue working from home. Computer-based online learning tools like zoom meetings, Microsoft teams usage increased.
By doing this, it limited the social contacts of these individuals affected with the virus. Large gatherings, schools, businesses, government offices were banned pending the end of the epidemic.
Evaluate Medical Resources and Response Systems.
Chinese adoption of a work evaluation approach to fighting Covid-19 also enabled other provinces in cushioning the effects of being hit by the pandemic. For instance, Wuhan, lacked disaster management response mechanisms which led to inadequate disease containment, widespread cross-infection in patients and healthcare workers in hospitals and weeks of chaos.
In drastic contrast, government officials in Zhejiang Province were well prepared to mobilise immediately and allocate resources, manage and monitor the evolving epidemic in a proactive fashion with impressive results.
The shortage of protective medical supplies and lack of knowledge about COVID-19 were the main factors causing a large number of healthcare workers to contract the virus in the early weeks of the outbreak in Wuhan. These were vital lessons that kept the other provinces abreast to a better fight back. There was a quick evaluation on how to reduce the loss of personal protective equipment and increase the safety of health worker.
The current improvements in global technology should not be shelved. Nigeria might not have biotech companies to develop detection kits within few days. Still, we can take necessary measure to quickly fish-out infected people, isolate them and start treatment, through awareness and early detection.
The number of cases in Nigeria keeps increasing daily, and the peak of the pandemic is yet to be reached. Massive actions must be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. This is the time for increased collaboration between government officials and health experts, as this was the case in China. A single communication channel should be adopted in disseminating government interventions with clear guidance about the degree and scope of measures in place to clamp down the virus.
While a lot of lessons to the use of rapid evaluation method, sampling what works in other non-affected states and ensuring an efficient public health guideline will help in the short-run, Nigeria has to brace up in prioritising health future and health security.
Leveraging on existing technology Nigeria can engage in non-compromising tracking on people through National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Power, Banks, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Telecommunication companies, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Insurance companies, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Investment into data bank citizen’s validation and adequate follow-ups should form part of a national priority.
It will be noted that one win when replicated can mean a victory for another day. Who knows how far Covid-19 will drift mankind?
Nigeria can steady the win, but more than just defeating Covid-19, China has shown the world that diligence, technology and compliance to governance can bring a quick, sustainable victory on several forms of human challenges.