The world is on pause. Around the globe, 210 countries are battling COVID-19 at different stages of severity. Wuhan, China, where the cases of a “pneumonia with unknown cause” were first reported to the WHO just over 100 days ago, has now emerged from the other end of the tunnel and is starting to rebuild a new normality.
In the same week as Swedish scientists criticize their government for not opting for the same lock-down as in most other corona-affected countries, and the UK and US experience dramatic exponential increases due to their late reactions despite seeing the devasting effects a delay had in Italy and Spain, Wuhan in China is coming back to life.
Masks and more are here to stay
Wuhan’s 76-day lock-down ended officially a little after midnight on Wednesday, 08APR20, after the number of new cases had been on a steady decline over the past weeks and finally on the Tuesday before, according to the local authorities, no new case was registered. The dramatic restrictions imposed from 23JAN20 on its 11 million inhabitants who suffered the greatest losses amongst China’s over 82,000 virus cases and more than 3,300 deaths, appear to have worked. While many countries have meanwhile adopted similar measures whereby people are asked to stay home and only leave the house to buy food and other essential items, some of these regulations are here to stay for the immediate future in Wuhan, such as the wearing of masks and submitting to temperature checks before being allowed to access residential communities. A return to normal life with a difference. That difference includes a mandatory smartphone application that tracks their health and contacts with people confirmed to have the virus. Data-tracking and government surveillance that are also the cause for heated discussions in, for example, Austria – where a similar “Stopp [sic] Corona” app from the Red Cross could become mandatory.
Wuhan airport resumes operations
The first flight to leave Wuhan Airport (WUH) at 07:25 on 08APR20 was China Eastern Airlines flight MU2527 to Sanya (SYX) – one of 30 domestic flights the airline had lined up, already registering over 1,600 booked seats. A short while later, at 07:45, the first arrival from Hangzhou (HGH) landed – Xiamen Airlines flight MF8095.
Cargo flights bearing much-needed medical equipment have since also taken off to international destinations, such as a Suparna Airlines B747 carrying 90 tons of protective masks, gowns and ventilators which landed in Sydney, Australia, shortly after 21:00 on 08APR20, and was the first flight from Wuhan to arrive there since late January.
Relief cargo flights from China helping countries across the world
A number of similar cargo flights have taken off in recent weeks across China, supplying not only much-needed medical equipment and gear, but also medical experts as was the case in Italy mid-March, when help was needed most.
Air India sent a cargo flight to China on 05APR20 to bring back medical cargo including novel coronavirus test kits, and this was apparently the first of a number, marking a closer cooperation between the two countries’ governments. KLM has brought back two of its B747-Combis in cooperation with Philips to service such exports from Shanghai and Beijing over the next weeks, and a whole host of other airlines with varying aircraft types have been bringing back urgently required medical aid. Perhaps the most impressive being the recent Antonov An-124 that landed in Bucharest on 07APR20 carrying medical supplies. “It is the largest medical cargo flight, with medical supplies purchased from China; it is the first such flight on this plane in Europe,” Adrian Ionel, the director of state-owned distributor Unifarm, commented in Mediafax. An even bigger flight is planned Easter weekend, when an An-225 (Registration UR-82060) will fly to China to bring back supplies to Warsaw, Poland.
Building bridges and forging relationships on a different level
China, at the height of its crisis, received help from almost 80 nations and 10 international organizations, and is now giving back – many believe with a not-so hidden agenda. Yet, certain countries, among them Italy and Serbia, frustrated at the lack of support they originally expected from Europe, are grateful. Michele Geraci, previously an under-secretary in the Italian economic development ministry pointedly rebutted critics, saying “If somebody is worried China is doing too much, the gap is open to other countries. This is what other countries should do.” While Serbian leader, Aleksandar Vucic claimed on television that “European solidarity does not exist” mid-March, when Serbia went on lock-down. “That was a fairy tale on paper. I believe in my brother and friend Xi Jinping, and I believe in Chinese help.”
Help from China has come in the form of donations of medical supplies to many countries, including those sceptical of the aid, such as the US and the UK. These donations come from the Chinese government and major Chinese companies and magnates, amongst them Jack Wu, The Bank of China, and Huawei.
“China will continue to play its part as a major and responsible country” - Xi Jinping
China has adopted the role the world has normally come to the expect from the US in this crisis, and is coming through stronger in its approach, pitted against the current failings its economic rival is showing during the crisis.
Experts forecast that China’s recovery will be slow, but successful, with a mild upswing in the second half of the year, given that the country was already planning back in 2017 to become totally self-sufficient by 2025, and is not as export-dependent as many others across the globe.
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