I may have the title “Doctor” prefixed to my name, but I am not a medical doctor and have no more experience with germs, viruses and biological ailments than the average “Joe”.
With that out of the way, allow me to comment on some aspects of this most recent outbreak in China. I have been a China watcher for over 22 years. In that span of time, I have logged over 120 visits to China and Hong Kong. I’m borrowing from an insurance company slogan to summarize why I feel I can comment on this event; “We know a few things because we’ve seen a few things.”
I did travel in China during the height of SARS. I was not worried then for personal safety and I am not worried now. When looking at the latest reported statistics, I suggest you do a little personal research to draw comparisons. For instance:
Q. How many people are estimated to die each year in China due to air pollution?
Q. How many people will die in the USA from influenza this winter season? How many will be hospitalized?
Q. How many deaths are caused by traffic accidents in China? USA?
All of us should work to gain a balanced perspective about this latest challenge because FEAR is IRRATIONAL.
You get the idea. Do you own homework and draw your own conclusions. For me, as soon as planes begin to fly again, I will be back over to visit our friends in China.
When the virus was first reported, I was on a ship in South America. One of the hospitality staff members was from Wuhan. So naturally we discussed the topic. My first, early prediction was that the government would work to downplay the topic in order to prevent panic. In the event that downplay was not working, their next step would be to jump to stop the spread by reverting to draconian measures at a level the world may not experienced before.
In the end, this is pretty much the path they have chosen.
A number of people question whether the numbers being reported are factual and accurate. Any veteran China watcher will pretty much yawn at such an accusation. In China, there is one news source for every event and used at all times. For the people of China and friends of China such as ourselves, we accept this. Are the reported numbers accurate? Who can argue? The fact is the Party wishes to eradicate this virus as much or more than any other entity. I, for one believe they’ll be effective if for no other reason than saving face. Be patient and life will go back to normal.
There are a few strands of good news we can be thankful for. One, the USA has offered to send assistance. The tariffs are coming down. When the USA issued a “do not travel to China” recommendation, the Chinese officials were quick to comment that this was “unkind.” I guess that means China wants their Western friends to come back soon! Also, I know many people around the world are missing their opportunities to travel to China. I see both as healthy.
Let’s open the bridge as soon as possible and get back to normal.
I did travel during SARS. Frankly, it was one of my most pleasant trips ever. Everyone wore masks to protect me. Hotels and planes were almost empty. Polite people followed me into the elevator wiping down the buttons.
I remember traveling by van along some rural roads during that trip. Suddenly, there was a cluster of people, all wearing white uniforms and face masks. I remember how they looked like they were preparing to board a space craft. They had us roll down the window and handed us thermometers, apparently for an oral temperatures check. As the lead delegate, I did what I was told. Everyone with me followed suit. Minutes later, the official who had handed them out to us returned and with alarm began to shout “No! No!…under your arm!” I wondered why they had a salty taste!
I never did have a problem with SARS, although I did have to complete a thorough mouth cleansing. My advice for when you eventually return to China is to be sure and get clear instructions when you are stopped, like we were, at any check points.
My team and I are all eager to return to China. In the meantime, we are praying for the good health of everyone there, as well as throughout the We are on this globe together and together we can make it a safer place.
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