Coronavirus reaction: the U.S. vs. China

By Patricia Patnode

The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been at the center of American news for the past few weeks. Online platforms are in hysterics over the thought of traveling and possibly transmitting the virus to loved ones like children. By now, an infected person has probably passed through every major international airport in the world. 

But is this fear warranted, or is everyone being over dramatic? 

The United States is enormously privileged with our access to health care and information. There is relative transparency of information and everyone who is potentially affected is free to do remote interviews with TV stations to describe their issues. Hundreds of people have been tweeting and posting their commentary and experience with the American health care system and COVID-19 testing.

The United States’ efforts to combat the outbreak stand in stark contrast to the Chinese government, which blocked people from searching terms associated with the virus, keeping them in the dark about symptoms and limiting communication between infected people and their families for fear of massive chaos and international media attention.

Aside from the health concerns, a Coronavirus epidemic has the potential to disrupt international trade and economic activity. Already, flights to Asia are nearly empty and thousands of travel plans have been altered for U.S. students who are or were planning to travel abroad. 

The 2003 outbreak of SARS, another infectious disease, decreased China’s GDP growth by nearly one percent, according to an analysis from IHS Markit. Though it doesn’t sound like a lot, that represents a 40 billion dollar impact on the economy. Since 2003, China’s share of the global GDP has quadrupled, meaning that if COVID-19 isn’t contained and resolved relatively quickly, the effect on the global market will be much greater than in 2003. 

The mortality rate for COVID-19 is much lower than SARS and already-healthy adults have been able to overcome the disease with proper health care and treatment. China is very concerned with keeping the disease contained in regions where there is adequate health care treatment. If infections begin to spread to rural areas where health care coverage is unideal, the risk to public health increases and the country’s economic stability will soar.

Moved by international pressure to not disrupt the production supply chains, China’s Communist government has forced the imprisoned population of Uygur Muslims to work in factories left vacant due to COVID-19 outbreaks, according to ASPI, an Australian think tank closely watching the issue. Moving Uyghurs from internment camps to factories that produce parts for global brands like Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen is how China is trying to prevent economic collapse in the short term.

Even though COVID-19 is not an immediate threat in the United States, as pneumonia and the flu have higher mortality rates, a team of health officials lead by Vice President Mike Pence are ensuring that the reporting and management systems are improved to deal with any potential outbreaks.

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Patricia is a staff writer for The Lorian.

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