Check all the special coverage of Global Voices before the global impact of COVID-19.
This article was written by Tom Grudy and published in the Hong Kong Free Press on March 14, 2020. It is reproduced on Global Voices under a content collaboration agreement.
According to a recent study by the University of Southampton, China could have prevented 95% of coronavirus infections if its measures to contain the outbreak had started three weeks earlier. However, China only cracked down in late January, weeks after police silenced a doctor for trying to raise the alarm.
The study, published March 13, by the WorldPop mapping group at the University of Southampton, measured the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions. The researchers examined how China isolated sick people, quarantined exposed people, and followed up; in addition to restricting travel, closing schools and workplaces, and canceling mass meetings.
The analysis, which is still pending peer review, found that early case detection and contact reduction were effective in controlling the virus and, along with other measures, can reduce transmission. With this you can also control the magnitude of the pandemic outbreak and save time for the preparation of medical care and drug research.
The simulations were based on data related to human life rhythm and diseases in order to show how a series of interventions can affect the spread of COVID-19.
Coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 66% if the measurements had been taken a week earlier, the study suggested, or by 86% if the action had started two weeks earlier. If action had been taken three weeks later, the situation could have worsened up to 18 times.
Silencing the Whistleblower: Doctor Li Wenliang
Most efforts to tackle the outbreak were made in late January, weeks after Dr. Li Wenliang, a Wuhan ophthalmologist, attempted to warn of the mysterious disease on December 30. She was one of eight people punished by police on January 1 for spreading “rumors” about the virus.
The Public Security Office had Li sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and that he had “severely disrupted the social order.” He died of the disease in February at age 34, sparking widespread outrage in China.
According to the New York Times, China also ignored offers of help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and the World Health Organization in January.
With the virus, now classified as a global pandemic, researchers at the University of Southampton concluded that social distancing measures should continue for the next few months and that China's approach should be taken elsewhere as soon as possible.
“China's vigorous and multifaceted response is likely to have prevented a much worse situation, which would have accelerated the spread globally,” the study said.