WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic as Hubei Province begins to recover - SupChina
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WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic as Hubei Province begins to recover

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From “Life under lockdown: Wuhan’s windows, balconies and rooftops,” a Reuters photo gallery.

The World Health Organization has officially designated COVID-19 as a pandemic, NPR reports. It is the first disease to be called a pandemic since the H1N1 flu in 2009.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has entered a bear market for the first time since 2009, the Wall Street Journal reports. The index dropped 5.9% today, and has registered “a decline of at least 20% from its recent high, set Feb. 12.”

Meanwhile, China declares more victories

All temporary hospitals set up in Wuhan to alleviate healthcare overload have now been closed, Reuters reports. “The Hubei provincial government said public transport workers in Wuhan and those engaged in making medical supplies and producing daily necessities could return to work,” Reuters separately reports.

Elsewhere in Hubei Province, some residents “are seeing their health system QR codes turn green,” easing limitations on their movement and returning to life a step closer to normal, TechNode notes. Limitations on business activities are set to relax soon across the province, Caixin reports — for example, “Qianjiang, a city of 1 million people 180 kilometers from the provincial capital Wuhan, will resume all public transportation and business operation in the ‘near future,’” according to a local government statement. Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co., a joint automobile venture in Wuhan, has “partially resumed production,” Caixin separately reports.

Beijing, however, remains paranoid about any renewed spike in infections, which would tarnish the propaganda victory declared by Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and state media earlier this week. AFP reports:

Beijing on Wednesday ordered people arriving in the city from any country to go into 14-day quarantine as China reported an increase in imported coronavirus cases, threatening its progress against the epidemic…

People arriving in Beijing for business trips must stay in a designated hotel and undergo a nucleic acid test for the virus.

Another Wuhan doctor dissents

New information about the early government cover-up of cases in Wuhan, where COVID-19 spread unchecked for weeks as local officials prioritized political reputations over public health, continues to come to light. Per China Media Project:

[A] bombshell feature story by reporter Gōng Jīngqí (龚菁琦) in the latest edition of China’s People (人物 rénwù) magazine [has] made the rounds on social media. The story was based on an interview with Ài Fēn 艾芬, the director of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital, one of the hospitals most directly affected by the epidemic in the provincial capital.

In her account Ai talks about her decision on December 30 last year to share with another health professional an image of a diagnostic report for a patient showing that they had “SARS coronavirus.” It was this image, passed between doctors in Wuhan, that resulted in eight doctors, including the now-deceased Lǐ Wénliàng 李文亮, enduring harsh reprimands from local police. At the time, Ai was herself called in by the Disciplinary Office of her hospital and accused of “manufacturing rumors.”

China Media Project includes a translated excerpt of the story, and the full text in Chinese. As the sensitive story has been aggressively censored on the Chinese internet, people “keep finding creative ways to share it,” with some methods reaching the level of a “digital performance art project,” says Quartz producer Muge Niu on Twitter. See also:

Other COVID-19 and China-related news:

“Taipei and environs” was briefly used to refer to Taiwan in the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker yesterday and part of today, according to Axios. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said that it would be “immediately lodging representations with the university,” per Reuters. Johns Hopkins has since reverted to “Taiwan,” but with an asterisk that clarifies, “The names of locations correspond with the official designations used by the U.S. State Department, including for Taiwan.”

“Taipei and environs” is how the World Health Organization has referred to Taiwan in its daily coronavirus situation reports since February 5.

“China is sending a team of medical experts to help Italy battle the coronavirus after the European country reported its highest death toll in a single day,” the SCMP reports. China is also supplying Italy with lung ventilators, masks, and other equipment, but researcher Lucrezia Poggetti has clarified that these are not donations — Italy will pay for the goods.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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