Covid mystery in China stokes fears of another global outbreak and economic slowdown

What is going on in China at present has stoked fears about the repetition of the horrific Covid-19 outbreak that killed millions of people across the globe. And like what Beijing did in 2019, this time too Chinese authorities are hiding information about the coronavirus infections from their own people and the world outside. Had China disseminated true information of the Covid in 2019, the world could have been saved from the unprecedented disaster.
The world is still recovering from the losses of livelihoods, damages to businesses and national economies, and healthcare disruptions. In such a scenario, the new, deadly variant of coronavirus from China can create havoc across the globe if its spread is not checked in time. This demands Beijing must take its citizens and the international community into confidence and share the ground realities with them.
Millions of new cases are reported from China daily. Major cities including Shanghai and Beijing are reeling under rapidly increasing infections. Hospitals and funerals are crowded, and streets are empty. People are not getting beds in the hospitals. They are forced to stay and sleep on benches and floors of hospitals. Even students are disallowed from attending school.1Teachers and school staff are falling ill.2
It is said to be the biggest wave since the Wuhan outbreak three years ago. Chinese authorities appear helpless and struggling to cope with the growing problem.3″The hospital is just overwhelmed from top to bottom. The biggest challenge, honestly, is I think we were just unprepared for this,”Beijing-based doctor Howard Bernstein said.4 There are chances that half of Shanghai’s 25 million population can be infectedby the end of 2022.5
China’s government however has stopped giving out information about new cases and the current Covid patients. It did not furnish any reason.6 On other hand, the state-run newspaper Global Times blamed western media for showing negative views about the ongoing crisis in China. It claimed that Chinese authorities were handling the pandemic smoothly.7The leaked government documents however revealed that the situation in China has turned grimmer.World Health Organisation (WHO) emergencies director Mike Ryan said “In China, what’s been reported is relatively low numbers of cases in ICUs, but anecdotally ICUs are filling up.”8
Around 250 million people in China are feared to have been infected in the first three weeks of December. This means about 18 per cent of China’s 1.4 billion population has caught covid.9In early December, many suspected China was hiding ground realities and under reporting the infection numbers. After China’s National Health Commission stopped releasing information, it cleared the air and raised concerns over Chinese intentions.10 Health expert Lawrence Gostin called it “highly suspicious”.11
In the wake of the absence of true and real-time data, other countries are grappling with the fear of the repetition of the 2020 disaster.12Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding said the global fallout of the expected 2022-2023 wave would not be small. “What happens in China doesn’t stay in China,” he said.13Nations like the US, India and European Union have begun taking measures to face a possible covid tsunami. People are masking up, buying ration stocks and medicines.
The mystery revolving around the health crisis and the disruptions in industrial and manufacturing in China have stoked fears across the world. “There are clear
implications for the global economy with China being shut down because of COVID,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.14Kerry Brown, an associate fellow in the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House, said the uncertainty in China is going to have a “massive impact” on the rest of the world.15
There however is going to be a harsher impact on small nations.Dane Chamorro, head of global risks and intelligence at Control Risks, said when the Chinese economy shrinks by 1 per cent, the global economy does by a half per cent. However, it is almost a full percentage point for countries like Indonesia, Chile, which are China’s major trading partners and suppliers, he said.16The slowdown in the Chinese economy and now fears of a new wave of Covid from China have dampened the global spirit and are likely to have a wider negative impact on all aspects of life.

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