China could have significantly curbed the spread of the coronavirus and reduced the number of cases by 95 percent, if authorities had taken action three weeks earlier than they did, according to a study published in March.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, President Donald Trump defended his use of the term “Chinese virus” and criticized China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
“I think they could have given us a lot earlier notice,” he said.
China has been accused of downplaying the severity of the outbreak and being slow to respond to the global pandemic.
Last month, the death from coronavirus of a doctor who had been reprimanded for issuing an early warning about the disease triggered a rare public outpouring of anger against the government online.
China’s government — as well as pundits, journalists and other media figures in the United States — have slammed Trump for emphasizing the coronavirus’ Chinese origins and accused him of attempting to shift blame to the communist nation.
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However, a University of Southampton study published last week appears to support the idea that the spread of the coronavirus could have been curtailed by swifter action from the Chinese regime.
The study’s authors estimated that without non-pharmaceutical measures —such as quarantines, travel restrictions and early detection — aimed at limiting the disease, the number of persons infected in China by the end of February would have been 67 times higher.
“The research also found that if interventions in the country could have been conducted one week, two weeks, or three weeks earlier, cases could have been reduced by 66 percent, 86 percent and 95 percent respectively – significantly limiting the geographical spread of the disease,” the study’s authors said.
According to researchers, “non pharmaceutical interventions” could have “significantly reduced the number of affected areas” had they been implemented sooner.
“This is a bat virus, not a China virus”
Numerous liberal politicians, commentators and journalists have echoed the Chinese government’s claim that using terms such as “Wuhan virus” or “China virus” to refer to the coronavirus is racist and that it is unfair to blame China for the disease.
“It’s easy to scapegoat people and that is what has always happened when there have been pandemics — that foreigners are attacked, sometimes foreigners physically are attacked,” NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel said during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC.
“This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats. This is a bat virus, not a China virus. It doesn’t speak Chinese. It doesn’t target Chinese people. It targets human beings who happen to touch their eyes, nose or mouth,” Engel added later on in the segment.
.@RichardEngel: "This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats. This is a bat virus, not a China virus. It doesn't speak Chinese. It doesn't target Chinese people. It targets human beings who happen to touch their eyes, nose or mouth." pic.twitter.com/ljQeT7UQam
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 18, 2020
Days after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it was “highly irresponsible” for media outlets to call the highly contagious disease the “Wuhan virus” or “China virus,” a debate erupted on social media over the appropriateness of the terms.
Oh, really? What race is Wuhan?
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) March 9, 2020
“By calling it ‘China virus’ and thus suggesting its origin without any supporting facts or evidence, some media clearly want China to take the blame and their ulterior motives are laid bare. The epidemic is a global challenge,” Zhao told reporters during a briefing in early March.
The World Health Organization has similarly urged against the use of “Wuhan Virus,” “Chinese Virus” or “Asian Virus” to describe the illness.
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“The official name for the disease was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatization,” the WHO said in a statement.