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This is what China did to beat coronavirus. Experts say America couldn't hand...

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Post time 2020-4-26 19:08:41 | Show all posts |Read mode
This is what China did to beat coronavirus. Experts say America couldn't handle it
Kim Hjelmgaard, Eric J. Lyman and Deirdre ShesgreenPublished 4:08 a.m. ET April 1, 2020 | Updated 2:01 p.m. ET April 1, 2020
In late February as coronavirus infections mounted in Wuhan, China, authorities went door-to-door for health checks – forcibly isolating every resident in makeshift hospitals and temporary quarantine shelters, even separating parents from young children who displayed symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how seemingly mild.

Caretakers at the city's ubiquitous large apartment buildings were pressed into service as ad hoc security guards, monitoring the temperatures of all residents, deciding who could come in and implementing inspections of delivered food and medicines.

Outside, drones hovered above streets, yelling at people to get inside and scolding them for not wearing face masks, while elsewhere in China facial-recognition software, linked to a mandatory phone app that color-coded people based on their contagion risk, decided who could enter shopping malls, subways, cafes and other public spaces.

"We couldn't go outside under any circumstances. Not even if you have a pet," said Wang Jingjun, 27, a graduate student who returned to Wuhan from the Chinese coastal province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong and Macau, in mid-January to live with her elderly mother and grandparents. "Those with dogs had to play with them inside and teach them to use the bathroom in a certain spot."

China’s zero contact: ‘It seems extreme. It works’

As the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic has moved to the USA, Chinese officials and public health experts insist that even if President Donald Trump were to immediately adopt all the strict testing and lockdown measures that Western scientific advisers advocate, these actions would still not be sufficient to stem the spread of a disease that is swiftly approaching a million worldwide cases.

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More severe steps are needed in the USA, these officials say, although they cast doubt on whether Americans could do what the Chinese did, for a mixture of reasons: political will and deep-rooted cultural inclinations among them.

To help quell its outbreak, Beijing embarked on one of the largest mass mobilization efforts in history, closing all schools, forcing millions of people inside, quickly building more than a dozen vast temporary hospitals, deploying thousands of extra medical staff to Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province and meticulously testing and tracing anyone and everyone who may have encountered the virus.

It did a lot more than that.

"Lockdowns, bans on gatherings, basic quarantines, testing, hand-washing, this is not enough," Huiyao Wang, a senior adviser to China's government, told USA TODAY in a phone interview from Beijing. "You need to isolate people on an enormous scale, in stadiums, big exhibition halls, wherever you can. It seems extreme. It works.

" 'No one left behind' was the slogan in Wuhan," he said. "No one."

In the USA, Trump urged Americans to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and suggested the worst-affected states should shutter schools, bars and restaurants.

Overall, he has left it to individual states and cities to decide whether to close businesses or explicitly order people to stay at home, despite evidence from countries in Asia, such as China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, that aggressively limiting public gatherings and social interactions can help stop transmission of COVID-19, when done in combination with extensive testing and tracing of the disease.

Fact check: Can Trump use the Stafford Act to order a mandatory 2-week quarantine?

Trump said he expects to see U.S. cases peak "around Easter," although his claims about how quickly the USA can overcome the outbreak and bounce back contradict assessments from top health officials, such as Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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After New York City became the new locus of the outbreak, Trump announced Sunday an extension of federal guidance on social distancing measures through April and issued a "strong travel advisory" urging residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to refrain from nonessential travel for 14 days to help limit the spread of the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new restrictions would help slow the spread of the respiratory illness, which has infected more than 190,000 Americans and killed more than 4,000. The daily death toll in the USA may not dip below 100 per day before June, according to a study by the University of Washington.

China’s nationwide response vs. America’s patchwork

Wang, the Chinese government adviser, said the example of Wuhan, where authorities have started lifting some of their stringent anti-virus controls that kept tens of millions of people at home for two months, illustrates that the USA and West more generally need to take far more radical virus-dampening actions that many people outside China might find culturally, logistically and emotionally unpalatable.

"It was not just families being isolated together in Wuhan but individuals being isolated away from their friends and families," said Andy Mok, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, a public policy think tank based in Beijing.

"China's response to the outbreak was truly a nationwide response: systematic, comprehensive and coordinated. This is why China was able to 'flatten the curve' so dramatically," he said, referring to social isolation measures aimed at keeping the number of coronavirus infections at a manageable level for hospitals and medical workers who would otherwise be overwhelmed with sick patients.

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Mok said that even in Beijing, about 750 miles north of Wuhan, coronavirus rules were established requiring residents to have a formal pass to get in and out of their apartment buildings and homes. At the outbreak's height in Wuhan, nobody was allowed in or out of the city, and access to food stores was limited to once every few days.

Video footage published by the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the country's state-funded broadcaster, showed Chinese authorities in Wuhan welding doors to entire apartment buildings shut – with residents inside – to enforce quarantines. The footage, collected from Chinese social media users, could not be independently verified by USA TODAY.

Mok questioned whether Americans, raised on a diet of individualism and civil libertiesthat has informed every aspect of life from travel to economic institutions, would be willing to abide by invasive virus detection and containment methods that require a strong commitment to "collectivism" and abridged freedoms.

Global action: Great Recession showed nations can’t fight coronavirus crisis alone

Europe has adopted some, but not all, of China’s most restrictive steps. In France, residents must fill out of a signed attestation to justify leaving their homes or apartments. Police hand out large fines to anyone who doesn’t follow the rules.

"It's a very clever form of social engineering for civic purposes: It forces you to think about and justify to yourself, as well as to the world, why you are leaving the house," said Sarah Maza, a French history professor and U.S. citizen living in France for the year.

Yang Junchao, a member of a Chinese delegation of COVID-19 doctors and medical experts assisting Italy in halting its coronavirus infections – the worst in Europe – said its epidemic will be controlled "as long as the Italian public cooperates."

Some American public health officials have acknowledged that to bring the virus under control – outside of a vaccine breakthrough – actions that overstep the bounds of what most Americans would be comfortable with, such as mass quarantines and other severe restrictions on movement, may be necessary.

"The approach we should be taking right now is one that most people would find to be too drastic because otherwise, it is not drastic enough," Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a USA TODAY interview.

"It may be a country like China has a more top-down ability to insist on certain behavior changes. But we ought to be able to do it in our way, in a bottom-up fashion," he said.

‘Widespread discontent and dissatisfaction’ in China?

Though China's official figures show that transmission of the coronavirus has all but ended in most of the country's regions, unverified reports and online photos circulate suggesting that China's death toll, primarily in Wuhan, could be far higher than the 3,312 figure published by China's National Health Commission.

The Beijing-based Caixin newspaper reported March 27 significantly elevated official cremation rates in Wuhan, possibly indicating a more substantial death figure, though the report acknowledges the increases were inconclusive. It is not clear how extensively China has counted asymptomatic cases, though it is tracking them.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly condemned China's initial suppression of warnings about the outbreak and questioned the accuracy of Beijing's infection figures.

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