✦ Don't forget those dark and desperate days
Cast your mind back three years to the start of 2020. The world was certainly a different place at that time. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, COVID-19 well and truly pulled the rug from under the feet of the world’s population, bringing all four corners of the planet to its knees in the process.
We have, admittedly, all but completely returned to normality during the past 9-12 months but we must not forget how painstaking and heartbreaking the deepest, darkest days of the pandemic were; times when we were forced to hide behind face masks, to stay behind locked doors, unable to visit even local stores and supermarkets in some cases, let alone family members and loved ones. Many people died as a direct or indirect of result of COVID and the world economy could be heard creaking from Tokyo to London, Frankfurt to New York, Hong Kong to Sydney and back again.
Time is a curious healer and retrospective analysis can be tainted. However, we should always remember, learn and react to periods of adversity and anguish – it is critical as it allows humanity to improve, progress and develop. It’s safe to say COVID was unprecedented and we absolutely must not forget its far-reaching, devastating and suffocating impact during those dark and desperate days.
Those that bothered to trace the origins of COVID in the search for some kind of answer, even a slither of clarity as to how it came about and was able to spread across the world like wildfire, all understood it was reckless and irresponsible policy decisions made at the highest level of Chinese government. Once doctors and scientists based in China had managed to analyse the mysterious virus emanating from the wet markets of Wuhan, they warned their superiors, strongly urging to close the country’s borders until it could be contained and better understood. Staggeringly these very same expert practitioners were ‘silenced’ by the communist regime – some literally told to hush ‘or else’, others simply ‘disappearing’, some even tragically succumbing to the effects of the virus. Flights continued to leave the country to all parts of the globe, taking the rampaging virus with it. Sadly, we all know how the story then unfolded.
Over time, the majority of the world managed to contain the virus as best as possible, with vaccines and robust health care measures the key drivers. But it certainly took its toll. Ironically, China seemed to fare ok during the first 24 months, claiming minimal figures despite possessing the world’s largest population.
Following their unscrupulous reactions in the early days, it was, however, genuinely hard to trust anything their government revealed, including data and statistics on infection and fatality rates. However, in the past six months China has seen numbers sky rocket to the extent that President Xi Jinping introduced a draconian “zero-COVID” policy that saw cities completely locked down and the entire population effectively held to ransom. It was so acute that we even witnessed widespread discontent culminating in riots in the likes of Beijing and Shanghai, something not seen in the country since the infamous 1989 Tiananmen square incident. The official word from the top was that it was impossible to contain the spread, that testing and tracking of numbers would be eliminated and there was no accurate indication as to what kind of mutations and variants would arise in time.
It is therefore nigh on impossible to choose the correct words when describing the decision made on December 26 2022 by the Chinese government to not only lift the zero-COVID policy but to officially reopen its borders to inbound and outbound travel and abolish quarantine from January 8, 2023.
Ahem, yes, that’s right. At a time when a renowned clandestine country was freely admitting the virus was out of control, it likewise decided to allow that problem to leave its borders once again to pose a very real threat to the rest of the world. Irresponsible, reckless and truly staggering.
The recation from the rest of the world has been one of equal bemusement and fear. Was it not bad enough the first time around that it is being allowed to happen again? The immediate response from the likes of the United States, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Malaysia was to impose strict testing on arrival with only those testing negative within 24 hours being permitted entry. China announced that its citizens would be tested on leaving and entering their country but the level of trust and credibility afforded to them by most evaporated long ago. Plus we all know that PCR tests are generally unreliable.
The fact that two flights from China arriving in Italy on December 28 saw over half the passengers test positive for COVID illustrates this and further undermines things.
Alarmingly, other countries welcomed the news as it would equate to financial gain. One such country is Thailand whose Health Minister declared on December 29 that no tests for inbound travellers from China would be required. Thailand, so reliant on tourism, was one of the countries decimated financially by the first wave but it is saddening, sickening even, that the health of its citizens and its long-term stability can be compromised by short-term financial gain.
Another worrying aspect relates to vaccines.
China has relied on domestically produced variations thus far, which have been categorised as universally redundant and lambasted as ineffective; Xi insisted on administering the likes of Sinovac and Sinopharm to millions of Chinese citizens, eschewing the offer of more reliable and effective options from the West such as Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna. Basically it means that the legions of Chinese eager to board a plane for pastures new have little or no effective protection vaccine wise. Whereas this will be irrelevant to anti-vaxxers, it rightfully causes concern for those who acknowledge that effective vaccines have helped combat the spread of the virus and alleviate the strain on hospitals and public health systems.
Bemused yet? It prompts one to question whether we learnt anything from the first wave of COVID. Was that devastation not enough? Are we going to collectively stand back and watch this horror show unfold again? Worryingly, it seems so, yes.
It is impossible to find anything light-hearted in this situation although several commentators have
remarked, very much tongue in cheek, that the decision by Xi is part of a plan to distract the world once again to ensure its own political gain; recall how Hong Kong was so rapidly consumed into the political jaws of Beijing while COVID ran rife throughout the world and how a once vibrant and free-thinking city has been lost. These same commentators suggest that a fully-fledged Chinese invasion of Taiwan could very much happen if COVID Mark II causes the disruption it is feared could unfold. Far fetched? Maybe. Possible? Sure.
This year saw Russian citizens barred entry to numerous countries worldwide following Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine in February, with far-reaching sanctions imposed. Whatever your personal stance on the war, the bottom line is the country’s citizens have been penalised for one man and his regime’s policies. However, in the cold light of day, the occurrences in Ukraine do not pose a direct health threat to citizens in, say, London or Los Angeles, Melbourne or Buenos Aires - the sanctions are a politically driven response to humanitarian abuse.
Will COVID-19 wreak havoc again?
With this in mind, surely the global community should be acting more robustly and responsibly to
safeguard people’s health by adopting similar restrictions? What occurred over the past three years wasn’t a warning, it was absolutely real and any sequel threatens to be even scarier. Of course, at this stage all predictions are merely conjecture and it will be interesting to say the least to watch how this development impacts the world. Australia will certainly adopt a robust approach which ensures the health and safety of its citizens and economy are protected but if things get out of hand then we may be entering uncharted waters once again. Ultimately, we can only hope that the nightmare scenario doesn’t unfold, that unchecked variants do not mutate to wreak havoc and that the unprecedented disruption previously experienced is never witnessed again.
Advertise with Brilliant-Online
✦ Brilliant-Online is the only publication that offers a single interactive multichannel advertising package.
✦ The purpose of Brilliant-Online is to push for a better world in the digital era.
✦ Brilliant-Online is an empowering read for progressive individuals and dynamic businesses.
✦ For all enquiries about advertising with Brilliant-Online, please contact us here.