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Coronavirus: Is the Covid-19 pandemic slowing down in China?

China, once the hub of the coronavirus epidemic, has seen a drastic reduction in the number of positive cases since issuing a nationwide lockdown.

The new coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China during late 2019 and in connection with a local seafood market.

Pneumonia-like symptoms began emerging in patients in hospitals, and the administration of antibiotics was not improving their health. When nurses began to fall ill, China reported the unknown illness to the World Health Organisation (WHO), but there was no evidence showing transmission between humans.

By January 2020, it had been confirmed by Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan that the virus could be transmitted through humans. Days later China issued the entire Hubei province into lockdown but was unable to contain the spread.

Maneki-neko fortune cat – Chinese New year concept

Maneki-neko fortune cat – Chinese New year celebrations concept

Today, the number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 800,000 worldwide, and many countries are yet to reach the peak of the infection.

However, for the first time in months, the Chinese province of Hubei is being associated with positive news. Chinese authorities have lifted restrictions due to the rapid decline in cases, and the economy has begun to find its momentum.

China has now been overtaken by Spain, Italy and the United States regarding the overall number of positive cases. According to Worldometer, as of 2:30 pm on March 31st, the US has the most cases of any country with 164,744.

Italy sits behind the US with 101,739, Spain in third with 94,417, followed by China with 81,518 total cases. The UK has the 8th most cases in the world at 22,141.

What did China’s lockdown entail?

To contain the spread, China enforced draconian lockdown measures, and other nations are following their lead to bring the crisis under control.

An estimated 760 million people in China were confined to their homes and only permitted to venture out for food or medical supplies.

In the Hubei province, Chinese authorities closed schools and public buildings, grounded flights, suspended all public transport and blocked roads to stop all movement in and out of the metropolis.

Wuhan, which was the centre of the epidemic, saw over 50,000 active cases alone and approximately 3,000 people in Hubei died from the disease.

President Xi Jinping has been criticised for taking such extreme measures. Thomas Bollyky, the director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, told TIME:

“The disregard for civil liberties and human rights that the government has demonstrated in its quarantine and censorship activities are inseparable from the policies and actions of the government that contributed to the outbreak in the first place.” 

While such extreme measures may cause severe psychological repercussions, it seems Xi Jinping’s methods have been effective in slowing the spread.

What is happening in China after the lockdowns?

According to China’s National Health Commission, there have been no new cases of coronavirus for seven successive days in the city of Wuhan.

China has begun lifting its restrictions across the country, and some firms have resumed work, although the people in the city of Wuhan will not be allowed to leave until April 8th.

China has also stepped up screening and quarantine measures. After a rise in cases from mainland China, the government decided to ground all international flights to prevent the virus from being transmitted from foreign nationals. All returning Chinese residents will be quarantined for at least 14 days.

WHO representative Tarik Jasarevic said that “China has passed one peak in the outbreak.” 

“The challenge now is to prevent the resurgence of new cases.”

What impact did China’s lockdown have on global trade?

China’s lockdown had a detrimental impact on the global economy and global trade.

As Wuhan is a major transit route for Chinese goods and travellers, the lockdown created a considerable dent in China’s economy. And, as we have seen over the past three years or so, if China slows, the world slows too. 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the year-over-year change between 2019 and 2020 in January and February saw significant declines. 

Figures showed:

  • Retail sales plunged by 20.5%
  • Industrial production had declined by 13.5%, the fastest contraction in three decades
  • Services production plummeted by 13%
  • Unemployment rose to 6.2%, the highest level on record
  • And the value of exports declined by 15.9%

The global economy mirrors these declines too. The commerce ministry stated that in January and February, China’s international trade in services dropped by 11.6% with imports and exports of tourism services plunging 23.1%.

As the rise in the number of coronavirus cases continues to rattle economies across the world, the global economy becomes more fragile. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported on Monday that the world had entered a global recession and 80 countries have already requested emergency aid.

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