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Friday, February 21, 2020
Coordination and Cooperation between China and the World Health Organization

Question: What do you think about the coordination and cooperation between China and the World Health Organization during the prevention and control of the Covid-19 epidemic?

Chan Kung: It is said that China expressed disappointment with the team sent by WHO, saying that they were all "laypeople", and that they are neither doctors nor virologists, but public health officials.

This question is actually very easy to answer. WHO has indeed sent real experts to China; however concerning the Covid-19 outbreak, the rest of the world sees the situation differently from China's perspective. China treats it as a disease, and the rest of the world sees it as a public health crisis. China wants doctors to be sent there to treat the disease, and it would even be better if they bring medicines to China. Instead, WHO and other countries are concerned about what measures should be taken and how to control them. So, WHO is sending actual experts to China, not "laypeople".

We can see where the major difference lies. China is concerned with technology and the rest of the world with management. This difference in views is also related to the travel regulations of various countries against China. Why did some countries adopt strict travel controls, including interrupting flight routes on China after the WHO announced China as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)? Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made it clear at a White House press conference on Covid-19 that there are a lot of unknowns about the virus, "unknowns around incubation period, unknowns about the speed of transmissibility, unknowns about asymptomatic transmission, unknowns about severity". He added that, "As you can see just from the media, the number of cases have (sic) steeply inclined each and every day. You know that, in the beginning, we were not sure if there were asymptomatic infection, which would make it a much broader outbreak than what we're seeing. Now we know for sure that there are."

WHO and other countries are now most eager to understand these specific conditions. As for the treatment and research on the cure, that is the latter thing, and many countries will work on this aspect. This means that if China refuses foreign experts, it will be at its own risk. If China is open and transparent, then many of the country's control and decoupling measures can be lifted early. The issues are clear, but in the case where they are obscure, strict control has to be adopted. China should understand this early and know the importance of global cooperation. At the very least, it should be known that WHO is not a hospital, but a global public health agency.

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