Coronavirus – the current form of which is Covid-19 – onset of the disease is from the city of Wuhan in central China. Last year, on December 31, Chinese authorities first alerted the World Health Organization about a disease like pneumonia in the city. Then on January 11, the first death from Covid-19 occurred. In just four months, the virus spread to 212 countries around the world. The world's most populous country, China, was shaken by the outbreak of the deadly virus. It has infected millions of people and killed many around the world.
Covid-19 became a pandemic once it spread from China. Whether a developed, developing or underdeveloped country of the world – the virus spread all over. People around the world are now going through a period of existence that has probably never been experienced before. The world's busiest cities are locked down, people cannot go to religious places to worship, educational institutions and almost all kinds of government and non-governmental institutions are closed. One-fifth of the world's population is now confined to the home. The ability to stay at home for a few months is vital in the fight against this virus.
China has been widely criticized for spreading the novel coronavirus to the rest of the world. The western media and politicians have pointed their fingers at China from the very beginning. According to them, the Chinese government has not taken enough steps to deal with the novel coronavirus. However, the reality is different.
From the very beginning, China has been fighting the deadly virus with strong morale. In fact, if the Chinese government had not handled the situation strictly from the beginning, the world's situation might have been even worse. Although, the deadly virus spread to new areas every day. However, the prevalence of the virus has decreased in other cities including Wuhan in China's Hubei province where there are no new infections. In general, the situation in China is now normal.
Chinese government's role in controlling the virus
Even though the novel coronavirus has spread all over the world, the country that has fought with the virus, monitored it, is China. After it became the center of an epidemic, the Chinese government announced a complete lockdown of Wuhan on January 23. Cities in other provinces were also gradually locked down to control the spread of the virus. China formed a special task force led by veteran virus specialist Dr Chung Nan Shan for the suppression of the virus in China.
However, since the virus is new, Chinese doctors and experts did not understand its effects at the beginning. As a result, it was too late to understand the horrors and because of that, there was some delay in taking action. A hospital was built with one thousand beds in just seven days – it holds the record of the fastest-built hospital. There were seven hospitals and 14 temporary hospitals in Wuhan, about 68,000 health workers from different parts of the country provided medical care to the victims.
Once the virus test confirmed an infection, doctors divided the infected into three groups. Slightly-affected people were sent to temporary isolation in stadiums, schools, etc. Meanwhile, other patients were sent to general hospitals. There were ICUs and specialised hospitals for dying patients. Chinese people were brought under the purview of information technology to monitor the movement of people and to stop the movement of infected people. The Chinese government: closed educational institutions, advised people to avoid public transport, forced all citizens to wear masks, sprayed disinfectants at regular intervals in crisis areas, and imposed strict hygiene on all citizens.
The government announced that even if a bill was outstanding, the citizens could not be disconnected from emergency services including: electricity, gas, water, and the telephone. A specific volunteer for each neighborhood bought and distributed food items according to the needs of each family in the area. In fact, no one left the house and accepted the lockdown. In order not to panic, foreigners staying in China were given an extra two-month visa even if their visas had expired.
Steps taken by the university
My university – Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics – is in Nanchang, just 350 kilometers from the city of Wuhan. In late January, we heard about the new virus through social media, also through print and electronic media. The maximum precautionary and preventive measures were taken for foreign students studying at the university.
The university told us not to go out of the room unnecessarily and to wear a mask all the time. Students were given a free thermometer to check their body temperature. Moreover, free hand sanitiser and masks were provided. Authorities repeatedly told us to wash our hands and asked us to drink plenty of water. All entrances to the university were closed. The doors and windows of the room were kept open to maintain normal air circulation. There was no opportunity for an outsider to enter the university. By all means, everyone had to be careful – the authority went from room to room with notices in this regard.
The Overseas Education School provided free meals to all students for one month. Later, the students could inform the office authorities one day before about their essential needs through online apps. All the necessary items for the students were procured and distributed by the official authorities and the volunteer team. After the situation became normal, students were allowed to go out shopping – once in four days.
In addition, if a student had a fever, cold, cough, runny nose, or chest pain – symptoms of the novel coronavirus; the information was then directed to the teachers, in charge of the dormitory or volunteers. The university was constantly checking to see if students were alright. Even then, if anyone showed signs of the novel coronavirus, the university authorities arranged for an ambulance to take the student to the hospital.
Despite everything being normal in China today, we have to comply with restrictions ongoing off-campus. When we forget to take our mask, a gateman reminds us to wear it. Students are also required to report their health status through the software on a daily basis.
My time indoors during the novel coronavirus period
I was at my university dormitory in China for the duration of this epidemic and still am. Walking out of university after two long months, it seemed like I had just set foot in a new world of beautiful green. In fact, there is nothing more expensive than moving freely.
I have fully complied with the instructions issued by the university regarding the novel coronavirus. I haven't had much fun with anyone since the lockdown started. I took a bath every day to keep my temperature normal. I kept the doors and windows open to keep the light and air normal. I exercised every day in the room and ate more vitamin C. I cooked and ate my own food every day. I washed my hands with soap, again and again, during the day. I always used a mask when I went out of the room. I used tissue while sneezing. I performed prayers and prayed to Allah.
Moreover, I am a final year student of the master's degree programme this year. During the novel coronavirus period, I was very busy with my final dissertation. I was in regular contact with my supervisor and completed my final thesis by correcting all the points as instructed by my supervisor. Our pre-defense and final defense were online. This was a new experience. The university continued all educational activities online with the students in mind. As a result, the students did not get entangled in the session. Undoubtedly, it is a commendable initiative.
As a member of the Overseas Education School's International Student Volunteer Team, I was engaged in the overall collaboration of foreign students studying at this university. We distributed food among the students, distributed hand sanitiser and masks, measured the temperature of the students' bodies regularly, assisted the students with their special needs, and assisted the office for the welfare of the students. Chinese students back at the university actually volunteered at the university canteen to ensure social distancing.
Another important thing that I did during the period was to present the truth to the people. Many international media spread false propaganda about the Covid-19 virus. Spreading lies and rumours created panic among the people. I am involved in journalism besides studying. I am working as the China correspondent of the first internet newspaper in Bangladesh, bdnews24.com, a leading satellite television station DBC News, and English daily The Business Standard.
Many Bangladeshi students come to China to pursue a higher education. During the novel coronavirus period, I highlighted the overall situation of Bangladeshi students studying at universities in different provinces of China to the Bangladeshi media. I mentioned the steps taken by the Chinese government and universities to deal with the novel coronavirus – in the international media and also the Bangladeshi media – so that there was no panic among the people. I gave an interview to China Radio International and Voice of America about the overall situation of the novel coronavirus. Additionally, I sent regular reports to the aforementioned news platforms I am associated with.
Lastly, the novel coronavirus in China is under control. Yes, it is possible to win a wrestling match with this coronavirus monster. Look, we have won. Chinese policy and the Chinese government are unique in dealing with such situations. At this moment, other countries in the world should follow the steps taken by China to deal with the novel coronavirus.
Mohammad Saiyedul Islam is a final year student of the Master's degree programme at the School of International Trade and Economics at Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, China