Australia puts the thumbscrews on China

EThe architect of Australia’s close relationship with its by far most important trading partner, China, is tough on Beijing. Long-time Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is head-on against President Xi Jinping’s leadership: “They tried to stop the virus from spreading to other parts of China, but they didn’t care that the virus could spread to other parts of the world . “

Christoph Hein

Christoph Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.

At the same time, Downer points out that he was never an opponent of communist China – especially since he even sat on the board of directors of the controversial telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei in Australia for a period. But: “No country can seriously cause a global catastrophe of such dimensions without being held accountable by the international community.”

Downer, Australia’s longest serving foreign minister, was very clear: “Xi Jinping should have the decency to explain how this pandemic broke out in his country.” The man who signed countless contracts with Beijing now warned: “The leadership The Communist Party has become arrogant, unlike the leaderships I had to deal with as Foreign Minister: Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao Xi Jinping should think about the impact of his policies in China on the global community – on people’s lives, on jobs especially for people with lower incomes, and on the structure of societies. “

Become independent of China

However, the realist downer sees risks from the refusal of the communists to fear the leadership of their own country: “China’s influence (soft power) will certainly suffer from the corona crisis. The best way for the leadership of the Communist Party to demonstrate is that China is really a country that wants to integrate and contribute to a wide-ranging international system instead of just selfishly pursuing its own interests at the expense of others, ”said the diplomat Beijing the thumbscrews. “If China refuses, then it should not be mistaken: It would massively damage China’s influence and position in the world.”

Downer is particularly pushing for a restructuring of supply chains, which should hurt the Chinese party dictatorship: “We should become less dependent on China’s supply chains. The bottom line is that we don’t want to impoverish more than we already do by replacing free trade with protectionism. But we want similarly thinking countries to develop a coherent strategy to address sensitive supply chain issues. For example, we should work to become less dependent on China for medical equipment and medicines. And in an era of high technology, electric automobiles and clean energy, we should rethink our rare earth dependence on China. ”

Australian politicians are pushing for a fair, open investigation into the outbreak. “China will play a central role in it, but the investigation must also include epidemiologists and scientists from a number of countries, and could even be led by the World Health Organization (WHO) – but China’s views should not be censored. One way would be to have the United Nations Security Council conduct such an investigation, ”recommends Downer.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already said his government is now “watching China with very open eyes.” His Secretary of State Marise Payne added that it is important to launch an “independent investigation” of the virus: “Australia will insist.”

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Statistical medicine, chloroquine and hypertension in the era of the coronavirus

Medicine has long relied on statistics for its predictions. Doctors have long communicated with their patients and families calculating the healing percentage once the disease and its speed of development have been diagnosed. One no longer suffers from an evil, with all the negative charge that clinical semantics entails, but the mathematics favorable to healing is valued.

Communication has always been difficult between medical knowledge and fear of the patient. Among the latter there are those who blindly follow the decisions of their trusted doctor, there are also those who do not want to know anything, but there are many others who try to understand their state or that of their loved ones. This last segment is on the rise as corroborated by the fact that some very successful television series have clinical debates in hospitals as a narrative element of interest, from ‘Emergencies’ to’ House ‘,’ The Good Doctor ‘,’ Grey’s Anatomy ‘or’ The Knick ‘, to name just a few of the most relevant fictions.

However, statistics applied to medicine had not had such a central role as in the current coronavirus epidemic. Between the curve and the peak, mathematicians and government spokesmen go out every day to count cases and deaths, including acceleration or braking rhythms in the evolution lines of the epidemic, with more and more abundant detailed calculations and infographics by country, autonomy, age range and gender, etc.

Four weeks after the alarm decree and absorbed by statistics, there is already evidence that, with the current chaos in counting methodology from the data provided, nothing can be predicted; not even carry out a minimal approximation to the course of events. Get used to the idea, because I walk from the 200,000 infections As announced by the Spanish health authorities, some international computer centers – from Imperial College to the University of Oxford – speak of millions of infected people in Spain, around 7 according to their average calculations, being optimistic.

As any seasoned person can verify, it has been a long time since the measurement of infections and deaths is very different from one place to another, the accounting method has even been modified depending on the control or lack of control of the epidemic. And in countries where healthcare has been federalized, such as the United States or our own country, it is even more complex to get a good idea of ​​what is actually happening in numerical terms with the virus. Furthermore, China is under suspicion that they have not provided as much information as possible about its original outbreak, trying to avoid penalizing its prestige as a nation. So the data, let alone the data comparisons, are chaotic right now. In this context, it is possible that only the figures on people admitted to hospital intensive care units are relatively reliable to know the evolution of the epidemic.

Western Health offside

That is one of the debates that arose around the pandemic. The other is the lack of foresight by political and health authorities about. The countries of the Far East, the so-called Pacific dragons, have understood it at first because they had the experience of the previous SARS and the fact that China is often the origin of a good part of the known coronaviruses, which include some pathogens that cause the usual winter constipates and have their reservoir in wild animals, especially in bats.

In countries where healthcare has been federalized, such as the United States or our country, it is even more complex to get a good idea of ​​what is happening

The hypotheses about the supposed success of Asian countries They are diverse in their fight against the coronavirus, invoking both the disciplined spirit of the collectivity derived from the philosophical teachings of Confucius and the authoritarian character of the Chinese Communist Party. Perhaps the Orientals, as selfish as the Westerners, believe more in the group as a protective agent against individualism than the freethinking autonomy of the West has fostered in our advanced societies.

But it will also have to be taken into account that ChinaAs we have commented, it is a permanent and original source of viruses that are transmitted from animals to humans, among other reasons for the exotic culinary customs of some of their territories, where they continue to practice the dangerous consumption of wild animals without sanitary controls. In this sense, it is worth recalling the advances in food hygiene that have occurred in recent decades in the West, with measures such as controls on food handling or product ban like the blood of animals, certain viscera or unpasteurized milk.

What is clear is that Western Health has had no insight regarding the Covid-19. Despite the fact that most of the best international medical journals very soon released access to new articles on the coronavirus, many from Chinese scientists themselves who warned about its distinctive characteristics, for too long there was no field study —In Wuham— from Western or WHO scientists. For weeks, Western health authorities – and not only Spanish – compared Covid-19 to a simple flu, scorning its fatality rates – which we now know that were weighted inappropriately—, thinking that it was too far away and that, in any case, it would be relatively easy to isolate and mitigate it, as happened with influenza A, SARS or even Ebola.

But two factors completely collapsed the forecasts: around 80% of those infected were asymptomatic but, at the same time, they transmitted the virus, and in a world more globalized than ever and with a capacity for interconnection with China that has multiplied in the last years. Not all of the medical community reacted this dismissively. In Italy, just know each other the first infections that caused the confinement of Codogno and other small towns near Milan in Lombardy, a prestigious Italian virologist with medical practices in the USA compared the Covid-19 with the Spanish flu of 1918, the pandemic that killed 50 million people. Most of his colleagues refuted his omens and called him apocalyptic and seeking prominence in the media. In our country, there have also been medical scientists who have mocked the forecasts of the National Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, whose spokesperson is the well-known and criticized Fernando Simón, the jersey doctor. Some of these criticisms, however, have been ideologically interested since they come from people closely linked to the political opposition, and even to Catalan nationalism.

Health personnel during their work day in a plant of the Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Madrid. (EFE)
Health personnel during their work day in a plant of the Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Madrid. (EFE)

The truth is that Simón and the advisers in the first moments of the Ministry of Health they had no plan B. They trusted the prestige of the National Health Service – now scattered by the autonomies and with little coordination capacity, as has been verified. They did not even notice that the Spanish pharmacies had been totally depleted of disinfectant masks and gels throughout the month of February and that even hoarding phenomena occurred. Almost at the same time, another prestigious doctor, a Spaniard at the head of the Institute of Emerging Pathogens at the Monte Sinai Hospital in New York, Adolfo García-Sastre, warned of the dangers that the collapse of the health system could produce. It was a question of averaging the infections – which they already considered inevitable – given the Covid-19’s high capacity to transmit itself and its extremely rapid multiplication in the upper respiratory tract. For García-Sastre it was evident that no current health system would be able to bear the stress of a massive contagion of coronavirus in a few days, as it has finally been happening first in Wuhan and then in Lombardy, Madrid, New York itself and now in France and England.

By the time this has happened, both medical and political authorities have discovered that the western industry, including the health industry, has been delocalized for years, precisely in China, and that it operates according to ‘just in time’ criteria, that is, that buys daily according to order and no longer has storage capacity of raw materials for its manufactures: neither alcohol nor plastics, nor special fabrics … with which to produce emergency items in this crisis: masks, gels and, especially, respirators and personal protective equipment for toilets. The criminalization of plastic, essential for making latex gloves, goggles, and breathing tubes, has done the rest. García-Sastre himself, who predicts the recurrence of major viral epidemics every 20 to 30 years in the near future, exonerates Western health systems of the current disaster for none was prepared for such a rapid spread of Covid-19.

Only an adequate research and hospital implementation policy could more effectively combat future pandemics. For this, in addition to the obvious increase in investment in these areas, there must be a increased flow of specialized information, more coordinated clinical trials and much more collaboration between different medical areas, since an expert in public health and epidemiology is not the same as a biochemical researcher focused on knowing the genetic chain of a virus or bacterium, much less an internist, a pulmonologist or intensive care doctor. And all of them are protagonists in the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Medicine to the rescue

We have already seen that public health experts and even many epidemiologists, including those at the WHO, have been outspoken by the pandemic. Neither they nor the politicians they were advising should know the moral of the tale of the Hindu prince and his subject Sissa, thanks to which it is easy to understand how fast and how much more exponential growth can increase. Authorities and health officials have seen in just two weeks go from having an outbreak confined in a small circle of people to runaway with thousands of infected and hundreds of deaths. So is exponential growth.

With the population becoming infected at breakneck speed due to the high transmission that characterizes Covid-19, and with microbiologists still studying substantial parts of the behavior of this new pathogen, and beginning a busy race to develop research that will find a vaccine or Some effective pharmacological treatment (there are more than 50 global vaccine projects and nearly a hundred international therapeutic studies at the moment), the battlefield soon moved to hospitals. And there yes, in the main line of fire against the deadly action of the virus, medicine, eastern and western, have shown unusual courage and ability to work, to the point that citizens have originated —in our country— an unprecedented formula of recognition: the ritual of collective applause from windows and balconies as a sign of gratitude to the army of restrooms who have been working in less than optimal conditions against the great microscopic enemy. The part of casualties in the toilets is also overwhelming, and is still not sufficiently justified for medical reasons.

The residents of Santa Cruz de Tenerife go out to the balconies and windows of their houses to applaud the toilets who care for the coronavirus patients. (EFE)
The residents of Santa Cruz de Tenerife go out to the balconies and windows of their houses to applaud the toilets who care for the coronavirus patients. (EFE)

It is true that Chinese doctors in emergency hospital centers, the main trenches of this health war, have been leaving clues to the problems and solutions they were encountering. However, the epidemic in Europe had not yet escalated when a medical controversy occurred in France that has caused rivers of ink to flow in French healthcare: From the prestigious university hospital in Marseille (the IHU), the director of the Institute unit Infectious Mediterranean, the renowned virologist Didier Raoult announced in a video “the end of the game” against Covid-19. Raoult, with a certain aspect of druid, echoed some Chinese and Korean recommendations and had used in her patients a medication that was recommended against malaria, chloroquine, of which there were also many and cheap stocks. Raoult was answered by the French Ministry of Health and the Inserm (the official health research institute), the same as alerted against ibuprofen. Recommending chloroquine was premature and there were risks involved.

To complicate the situation, other French hospital doctors added a second therapy to antimalarial medicine: azithromycin, an antibiotic widely used against pneumonia. While in France the controversy has continued, it has now moved to the U.S, with President Donald Trump defending the use of chloroquine against the opinion of his own health advisers, in Italy and Spain the Ministry of Health itself has recommended this therapy. So in Spain antimalarial hydroxychloroquine is being administered despite its side effects because, it seems, it works, and even more so combined with the mentioned antibiotic. Perhaps this medical daring explains the high rate of cures that Spanish hospitals have, or perhaps it is the self-denial and the value of their human resources, since the materials have been out of control for weeks, for which half the country has had to start looking for masks or making respirators.

In Spain, the battle to Covid-19 is being won in the ICUs, also having unprecedented levels of social collaboration

In any case, in Spain the UCI battle is being won, also having unprecedented levels of social collaboration. Spanish doctors have also cleared the development of Covid-19 pneumonic disease and have adapted their therapies to it. Apparently it is not the infection itself that causes the death of the patient but rather the overacting of the immune system once the virus multiplies in both lungs. That immune excess would cause widespread inflammation of vital organs and it would lead to an irreversible situation. The Spanish pulmonologists and emergency internists have understood, however, that in the phase of infection, the virus must be fought with chloroquine, but once it passes or is close to passing into the inflammatory phase, one must forget about the virus and proceed to deflate the patient with corticosteroids. Knowing how to manage the times and the medication would be the key to healing the seriously ill with the virus.

Why the big outbreaks in Italy and Spain

The last question we would like to raise is not intended to explain any of the abundant conspiracy theories circulating around the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Some are very widespread, such as those that indicate the existence of a military biological laboratory in Wuhan, from where the bug could have escaped. Or others, more specular and related to alleged microbiotic wars between the United States and China, in addition to those that suppose that Bill Gates is a kind of guru with powers in the afterlife because after the Ebola crisis he tried to make humanity aware of the risks of viral epidemics. There are even more incredible theories, such as those of the American doctor Thomas Cowan, who at the recent health and human rights summit in Tucson, Arizona, came to explain the close relationship between viruses – a biological excrescence as defined – and contamination radiological. For Cowan it is no coincidence that the 1918 Spanish flu occurred at a time of strong expansion of radio emissions, or that Covid-19 now coincides with the arrival of 5G in telecommunications.

Much more significant than such conspiracies is the knowledge that is being acquired regarding the behavior of the specific coronavirus caused by Covid-19, of which there was no more idea than its similarity to other previous pathogens – SARS or MERS – but little plus. It is true that very soon its primary composition was deciphered and it was learned that it used its protein “crown” to bind —coarse, apparently— with the enzyme ECA2 —ACE2 in English— thanks to which it penetrated into human cells from where it reproduced by the millions. But fundamental aspects of the virus are still unknown, so many that the general misunderstanding suffered by public health groups in the world is understood. Once again, statistics are the one that throws a cable to medicine: the data show that the virus is mostly asymptomatic, that it presents with mild symptoms and that it affects more seriously older people, men more than women, and patients with previous pathologies. like heart disease, hypertension or diabetes. But it is not yet known why these traits, or the causes for which exceptions occur, as well as the repercussions of overexposure to the virus or the so-called viral load of infected droplets that an individual can transmit or for which it can be known. be infected.

The case of the hypertension it is particularly opaque. During the first great wave of the virus in China, a Mexican virologist interviewed by a prestigious national media came to say that the hypertensive problem stemmed from their hyperactivity, which facilitated their spread. Some time later it was concluded that the problem was not high blood pressure, but medication to moderate it. Specifically, it was alerted to the fact that some medicines inhibited the enzyme ECA2, the same that the coronavirus uses to penetrate cells and is present in the lungs, which could accelerate the severity of the viral infection.

Faced with this news, both the French and the Spanish Ministry of Health were positioned to stop the conclusions against antihypertensive medication: there is no clinical study that corroborates such assumptions. But many doctors, when in doubt, have been choosing to change their patients the therapeutic group with which they control blood pressure. Until Chinese hospital doctors and renowned Harvard internist Leo Galland have ruled quite the opposite: hypertensive patients treated with BRA drugs that block angiotensin II – a vasoconstrictive hormone – that is produced thanks to our friend the enzyme ECA2 from the lungs, would be in better conditions to improve against Covid-19, since the virus causes the enzyme “depletion”, and the more enzymes the less depletion. Quite a mess in a passionate medical debate right now.

And something similar happens with the thermal and geographic hypotheses. At this point, for example, we know little about the possible transmission of the coronavirus through water, food, or even sexual activity. The heat is supposed to mitigate its activity, but nobody is sure of it, nor of the seasonal nature of the virus, while everyone prepares for a second wave of Covid-19 once the quarantines are over, the second wave that in the case of the 18 flu was the really deadly one. A North American university study, also statistical, concluded one month ago, that Covid-19 showed much more intense outbreaks in a geographic strip in the northern hemisphere, coinciding with temperatures between 6 and 22 degrees and humidity below 60%.

Several people in the empty Times Square in New York due to the confinement measures decreed in the USA. (Reuters)
Several people in the empty Times Square in New York due to the confinement measures decreed in the USA. (Reuters)

None of this has been demonstrated, even though Chinese Wuham, Italy, Spain and the United States coincide in that strip, as well as many other countries with a much lower incidence of infections. Another geographic study, this one from the University of Alicante, concludes that the virus is not transmitted through the air, since if this were the main current from China it would take the east direction and not the opposite, as it has happened with the Covid-19: then it would be the direct contagion between people that acts in this disease. Some people, on the other hand, attribute to the social culture of Latinos the persistence and intensity of the viral outbreak in Spain and Italy. More sociability, a better quality of life thanks to the Mediterranean diet, a more immunological genetics, a demography with pyramids of an older population also thanks to the healthy attitude towards the existence of Spaniards and Italians … all this separately or at the same time, would be playing against both countries. But it is also contradictory that it only occurs here, and that countries such as Greece, Portugal or Malta, as Mediterranean as us, have very low rates of Covid-19 disease.

Neither New York or New Jersey, where now the virus is attacking with greater virulence, are too similar to Mediterranean ways of life, and it is time to see, in the same way, how the Covid-19 behaves in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia or the Scandinavian territories, peripheral to the health crisis to date.

As you can see, a whole ocean of doubts. And that is the main current conclusion of the pandemic caused by this coronavirus: that science is not all-powerful and that it needs time and resources to reach complex knowledge of things, and that no matter how much we have turned the planet into our vacation villa , we continue to be at the mercy of the gods of nature and suffering from a certainly inevitable biological fragility. Every time man faces the drama of existence, he receives a lesson in humility.

*Juan Lagardera He is a journalist and editor.

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Chinese censorship in the times of Corona

Dhe organization “Reporters Without Borders” has asked the Chinese government to allow criticism of their handling of the new corona virus. Managing Director Christian Mihr said that whoever praises the Chinese government’s action against the virus should also consider that the same government is silencing critical voices. Journalists who want to report independently disappear again and again in China. Others are placed under house arrest. Two citizen journalists disappeared in February and journalist Li Zehua has been missing since March. He had quit his job at the state television broadcaster CCTV to independently report on the situation in Wuhan (F.A.Z. on March 6). Ren Zhiqiang, himself a member of the Communist Party, who criticized the government for trying to cover up the virus, has been missing since mid-March.

Social media censorship

Anna Vollmer

Researchers at Canada’s CitizenLab have shown that the Chinese government has been trying to censor information about the virus from the start. Certain keywords and keyword combinations had been blocked in various social media such as the YY streaming platform or the WeChat news service in order to prevent information about the new virus. YY censorship began on December 31, exactly one day after several Chinese doctors, including Li Wenliang, who died of Covid-19, warned of the dangers of the virus. Even after the rapid spread of the virus, the government did not change its tactics, on the contrary: more and more words were blocked. New regulations to regulate content online came into effect on March 1, allowing the government to further increase pressure.

Despite censorship, journalists try to provide the population with information. In their reports, they often write about local omissions rather than criticizing senior politicians. Censored texts, such as an interview with Chinese doctor Ai Fen, who criticized government behavior in the fight against the virus in the American “People” magazine, are translated into other languages ​​or Braille, replaced by words with emojis or behind QR- Hidden codes to allow further spreading.

China ranks 177 out of 180 on the press freedom list. 108 media workers are in prison there.

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Bayer employee in China fired for quarantine violation

I.n China is doing well for Bayer. “Super job!”, A user of the short message service Weibo praises the German pharmaceutical company. “The next time I need something, I will buy your product,” writes another. And the Beijing police on their Weibo channel advise: “Do the same as Bayer.”

Hendrik Ankenbrand

In this case, doing it like Bayer means dismissing an employee without a lot of feather reading because she was jogging without a face mask during her mandatory quarantine period. This is what happened to Liang M. last week. Until Tuesday, the 47-year-old Australian citizen was head of the automation department at Bayer Healthcare in Beijing.

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Official data from China indicate that a quarter of the new viruses came from elsewhere

About a quarter of China’s new confirmed cases and almost all those outside the epicenter of the Wuhan epidemic originated outside the country, according to official data.

Most of these cases, including infections by Chinese citizens who have taken the virus abroad, occurred in the northwestern province of Gansu in China, among quarantined passengers who entered the provincial capital of Lanzhou with flights. commercial from Iran between March 2 and March 5.

There are currently over 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with 80,651 in China, 7041 in South Korea, 4747 in Iran and 4636 in Italy.

In addition to the growing risks of imported infections, Chinese anti-virus efforts also face the challenge of trying to get migrant workers back to work in early April.

So far, 78 million migrant workers have returned, or 60% of the total who left for the Lunar New Year holidays.

“I must stress that we are still in a critical juncture in terms of epidemic prevention and control,” said Yang Wenzhuang, an official from the Chinese National Health Commission.

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“The risk of contagion resulting from the increase in population flows and gatherings is increasing … We must not relax or lower the level for virus control.” Mainland China had 99 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection on Friday, NHC said on Saturday, down from 143 cases the day before and marking the lowest number since January 20, when NHC started publishing data at the level national. Outside of central China’s Hubei province, 25 new cases were confirmed on March 6, including 24 from countries other than China.

The capital Beijing reported four new cases on Friday, including three from Italy, according to a warning from the Beijing Health Commission published on its official Weibo account on Saturday.

The fourth was a case in which a recovered patient tested positive again. There were also three cases in Shanghai that originated overseas and one in Guangdong province on Friday, according to the National Health Commission. The total number of nationwide cases originating outside of China reached 60 at the end of Friday.

For the second consecutive day, there have been no new infections in Hubei outside the provincial capital of Wuhan, where new cases have fallen to their lowest level since January 25.

Special institutions such as prisons, detention centers and nursing homes in Wuhan, which have seen nearly 1800 confirmed cases since March 5, still have potential risks in virus control and prevention, the Political and Law Commission said on Saturday. Communist Party.

So far the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China is 80,651. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China was 3070 at the end of Friday, up 28 from the previous day.

The central province of Hubei, the epicenter of the epidemic, has reported 28 new deaths. 21 people died in the provincial capital of Wuhan.

Meanwhile, an Iranian politician has died of coronavirus, reports the semi-official news agency Tasnim, in another sign that the disease is spreading within state institutions.

Iran is one of the countries outside China most affected by the epidemic. As of Friday, the country had reported 4747 infections.

The politician, 55-year-old Fatemeh Rahabar, was recently elected to serve in the incoming parliament which starts working in May.

Earlier this week, Iranian politician Abdolreza Mesri told state television that 23 members of the current parliament had coronavirus and urged all politicians to avoid the public.

On March 2, Tasnim reported the death of Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council, intended to resolve disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, a governmental body that controls election candidates among other functions.

Iran’s deputy minister for health, Iraj Harirchi, and another member of parliament, Mahmoud Sadeghi, also claimed to have contracted the virus.

Elsewhere, 21 people aboard a giant cruise ship off the coast of California have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence, including 19 crew members, announced on Friday.

Pence said the federal government is working with California officials on a plan to bring the ship to a non-commercial port this weekend and that 3,500 passengers and crew members will be tested for the virus.

“We will all test on the ship and quarantine if necessary,” said Pence. “But as for the 1100-member crew, we predict they will be quarantined on the ship.”

The ship carried 3533 people, including at least four Australians.

Another Nile River cruise ship in Egypt carrying 150 tourists and crew members was quarantined Saturday in the city of Luxor after 12 people tested positive.

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Trade in and consumption of wild animals is prohibited

China has announced an immediate and “global” ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals, a widespread practice believed to be linked to the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

The Covid-19 epidemic has killed over 2,500 people, largely in China, and has infected some 77,000 people in 29 countries since December last year, sparking fear of a global pandemic.

It was initially thought to have originated in a controversial “wet market” in the city of Wuhan selling exotic wild animals, jumping from one animal to a human host – although recent reports have questioned that explanation.

The Communist Party announced the ban at a meeting on Monday, where the decision was made to postpone China’s annual parliamentary session for the first time since the Cultural Revolution, state-run CCTV reported.

“Since the Covid-19 epidemic, wild animal consumption and the huge hidden threat to public health from practice have attracted a lot of attention,” said the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, according to the South China Morning Post.

The decision comes after an earlier temporary ban was announced shortly after the outbreak began and follows requests from Chinese President Xi Jinping to crack down on illegal markets and trade in wild animals.

It is expected to have major consequences for the Chinese economy. A government-sponsored report in 2017 found that the Chinese wildlife trade and consumption industry was worth 520 billion yuan ($ 112 billion) and employed 14 million people.

Many of these people come from poor regions where wildlife farming is an important source of income. The ban includes wild animals on farms such as civet cats, which were thought to be linked to the SARS epidemic 17 years ago.

“The transformation of the reproductive sector should be combined with Chinese poverty reduction programs that have announced budgets every year,” said Zhou Ke, a consultant to the National Standing’s Congress Standing Committee.

According to the report, the use of wild animals for scientific and medical purposes will be allowed but the management of these facilities will be strengthened.

Li Shuo, Greenpeace’s senior political adviser in Beijing, said Bloomberg the process of ending trade and consumption “will be a stimulating exercise” and that determining whether traditional Chinese medicines are included and what counts as illegal are some of the issues that need to be addressed.

The current Chinese wildlife protection law, adopted in 1989, prohibits the consumption of endangered species, but is full of loopholes. According to People’s Daily, the wild animals covered by the ban include those already subject to the Wildlife Protection Act, wild animals that have “an important ecological, scientific and social value” and other wild animals, including those raised in captivity.

“The current law only protects limited species of wildlife, but the ban prohibits eating in a general sense, not only animals that live in the wild, but also those of the breeding industry,” Zhou Haixiang, member of a Chinese environmental protection group said to South China Morning Post.

frank.chung@news.com.au

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Wang Xining grilled about China’s response to the coronavirus

The Chinese Embassy Minister in Australia, Wang Xining, denied that China was involved in a “cover-up” of the coronavirus extension and defended the brutal tactics used to control the disease, stating that they were also possible in Australia.

China has blocked tens of millions of people and huge parts of the country in an attempt to contain the COVID-19 disease that has infected 79,000 people and has spread to South Korea, Italy and Iran, among other countries.

In a broad discussion on Q&AWang was asked about the suppression of information in China if he had handled the coronavirus epidemic badly and if there had been a cover-up.

“I don’t think there is a cover-up,” said Wang. “It is a very sophisticated problem. It involved many agencies and skills. It takes time to make precise judgments on how to deal. “

He went on to explain that China does not consider itself a “party state”, but in reality a “socialist democracy”.

“A simple comparison between Australian democracy and Chinese democracy will be like this: you have a” voting “democracy, we have a” functioning “democracy,” he said.

“Efficiency is our main concern.”

Q&A conductor Hamish Macdonald noted that democracy implied voting but Wang reacted, stating that people voted for members of the National People’s Congress.

When asked about the system, journalist and researcher Vicky Xu said there were democracies written in the Chinese constitution, but if they were practically implemented it was another problem.

Journalist Stan Grant, who spent 10 years in China, described working for CNN and said Wang, who is now the deputy head of mission at the Chinese embassy in Australia, was “responsible for me” at the time. .

Grant said that when CNN made a story that the Chinese didn’t want people to watch, the screen would go black.

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“So the information was blocked by people. The people we interview would often disappear. He would be put under house arrest … we have been arrested on numerous occasions. Sometimes … arrested violently and physically. “

But Wang said “I don’t agree”.

“We think that sometimes the western media has failed to provide the information, selected a big puzzle to represent China as a very autocratic country. If you go out into the street, talk to people, for example you will find 85% of people agree with what the government is doing.

“They think China is moving in the right direction. And there are 90 million members of the Communist Party. Two million more join the party every year. If you think they’re idiots, it’s an insult.”

Wang said he did not think that freedom of speech was granted anywhere in the world.

“I don’t think child pornography or terrorist information would be allowed in Australia or anywhere in the world,” he said.

ARE THESE MEASURES APPROPRIATE?

Wang was also shown a footage previously broadcast on Four Corners of people being dragged from their homes during the COVID-19 epidemic that spread worldwide. Some of them screamed as they were transported, pushed into vans and forced into quarantine.

“Are these types of measures appropriate, proportionate?” Asked Macdonald.

“Well, we have to make a 100% effort to reach 0% chance of further outbreaks to prevent any possibility of human-to-human transmission,” Wang replied.

“Some people are not very willing to cooperate.”

Macdonald continued by asking, “Are these tactics appropriate?”

“You mean, drag people out? If they are confirmed, they are the host, “Wang replied.

“Think about their neighbors. And now think of millions of people staying at home.

“Most Chinese people are good people. They are willing to sacrifice their immediate pleasure and personal income for the greater good. If we let these people out – and recently there are many cases not of an epidemic in common, but of transmission from people to people – those people who have been infected, what do you say? “

Macdonald asked Raina MacIntyre, head of global biosafety at the Kirby Institute, who praised China’s response to the coronavirus, about what he thought of the footage.

MacIntyre said it wasn’t a specific comment to the videos, but said that “just to be the devil’s defender”, Australian laws also allowed him to forcefully isolate someone if it posed a risk to surrounding communities.

“It has been used very rarely, but it has been used in Australia to essentially isolate people infected with diseases like tuberculosis,” he said.

“This type of legislation essentially looks at the public good with respect to individual rights. And in some cases the public good is greater than individual rights. “

MacIntyre also supported Australian measures, including a travel ban for travelers from China, which Wang criticized as “a wave of panic, overreaction and racism” and claimed that it was a standard public health measure. .

“Quarantine and travel restrictions that have been used throughout history,” he said. “They work.”

WILL YOU RELEASE OUR FAMILY MEMBERS?

Two men who were separated from their wives and children also appeared to be asking why the Chinese government had imprisoned a million Uyghurs and whether they would release their family members.

“My son is an Australian citizen and in possession of an Australian passport and I have never met him,” Sadam Abdusalam.

He said his three year old son and his wife Nadila Wumaier were under house arrest. His friend Almas Nizamidin hadn’t heard from his wife in three years.

“The Australian government has granted my wife a visa to be able to come and join me in Australia. But the Chinese government won’t let them go, “said Abdusalam.

“Why did the Communist Party lock up a million Uyghurs? Will you release our family members? “

Macdonald asked Wang why Abdusalam could not see his son.

But Wang said it was “another piece of a big puzzle” before saying that Abdusalam was not an Uyghur and that China also did not recognize dual citizenship.

Wang said the girl had also told the government that she didn’t want to come to Australia.

McDonald asked if Wang would allow him to travel to Xinjiang to see the fields, which Wang had insisted were actually “training centers”.

But Wang turned to Grant and said he had been to Xinjiang a few times with CNN.

“We have often been detained,” said Grant. “We have often been physically assaulted while trying to talk to people in many parts of China. You also know it from our time together.”

“He always takes a piece of a puzzle and portrays China as something very bad,” Wang replied.

Xu asked Wang if he was seriously suggesting to Sadam’s wife and son that he didn’t want to come to Australia.

“I mean,” said Wang.

Four corners she reported on this case and with videos of this woman who claims to want to come to Australia. Are you saying that ABC simulated these videos of this woman? “Xu asked.

“There is a lot of fake news out there,” said Wang.

“You’re accusing the ABC of fake news right now and you’re on their show. Do you understand the irony?”

Wang said that since arriving in Canberra, a small number of people in Australia have been trying to preach xenophobia and misunderstand China.

“Either from their political motivation, from their selfish personal aspiration or they are supported by some foreign forces. You may be looking for evidence. “

Asked which foreign forces he was referring to, he said, “The United States.”

Xu noted that Foreign Minister Marise Payne personally raised the issue of Uyghurs and prisoners in the camps. “Are you saying that Foreign Minister Marise Payne is a US puppet?”

“She was misinformed,” said Wang.

“His views are sometimes on the Western media representation of the problem. It is a training center. People need to be prepared for future work.”

Asked if people in the “training centers” were present voluntarily, Wang said that most of the trainees had committed minor offenses, not at the level of criminal persecution.

He said “many” of them were there voluntarily.

“Because that region was contaminated with terrorist and radical ideas.”

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