From Wuhan, with hardship

By Dennis Murphy

February 11, 2020

With over 24,500 confirmed global cases of Coronavirus, governments around the world have initiated quarantine protocols. The worst of the outbreak, however, has remained localized in its nation of origin: China.

The virus has made life difficult for Chinese SAISers. One Chinese student found herself unable to return to China. Restriction on travel prevented her from returning home, as she would have been forced to miss several courses due to quarantine procedures.

“It’s scary,” she told me, describing Wuhan, the city where the Coronavirus is believed to have originated. The outbreak was “really bad there.” She described an incompetent local government, rampant misinformation and aid that failed to reach its final destination

When asked about the Chinese leadership, however, the student argued that Beijing had been an effective actor during the outbreak. In her opinion, Wuhan’s local government is the source of today’s difficulties. She was quicker to blame the United States’ behavior, and argued that it was hypocritical to treat China poorly when little was done to the US following the outbreak of the deadlier H1N1 virus in 2009.

Another Chinese student also criticized the handling of the situation by the Wuhan government.

“Imposing a lockdown and speed-building two field hospitals” are “not enough to amend the mistakes they committed earlier.” He recalled to The SAIS Observer that eight doctors investigating Coronavirus were arrested and charged on January 1 for “spreading rumors about a ‘SARS outbreak.’”

Nor has the Wuhan Municipal Red Cross escaped criticism. The “Red Cross became notorious for intercepting all outside donations and redistributing only part of the donation with a biased recipient list.” But, positive developments have been happening closer to home.

“Some of my college friends at the George Washington University started a donation campaign across the U.S. east coast to purchase” needed medical supplies for the people in Wuhan. Over the course of a week, from January 24-31, all across the “DMV region, they stocked 5535 N95 respirators, 31100 gloves, 209 goggles, 2 containers of antiseptics and 40 suits.” They have since been donated, most of them to the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University. The Red Cross may intercept this shipment as well, but his friends were undeterred. As a result, to this student, “they are truly the future hope of” China.

Both students were concerned about racism following the outbreak of the virus. The first student remarked on stories she had heard about bad encounters Chinese students were having, often connected with wearing surgical masks.

The second student said that he hoped not to see “a biased attitude toward the Chinese” students at SAIS. “Tragic things happen from time to time” but “don’t let it draw [on] your emotional resources.”

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