What ails our Malaysian universities ?


 

Recent discourses about revamping our higher education system have included the following: critical thinking, empowerment, humanistic values, future proof graduates and improvising teaching methods.

Many Malaysians understand “critical thinking” as the ability to criticise something, and “future proof” as being immune from the future. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Politicians, civil servants, parents and civil society activists have uttered these concepts too often. They lament that our education system has failed.

Our leaders say we are a society devoid of critical thinkers. They swear blindly that Malaysians are left behind due to our inability to improvise in this age of rapid technological innovations.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that the developed world uses English to their advantage, but we have not.

Critics also claim that developed nations are more scientific and technologically minded, because they have the ability to think critically.

Innovation, improvisation and critical thinking have always been used in discourses of scientific, technological, technical and vocational education.

A “future proof” graduate with “humanistic values” would have acquired adequate and sustainable mental, spiritual and practical skills by now. Yet it seems the narrative we are familiar with does not tally with the reality, due to our misunderstanding of the fundamentals.

Malaysians can be globally competitive and widely respected if we decide to be consistent in the fundamentals. These fundamentals have not been mentioned as openly, but they are crucial to whether we surge ahead or fall further behind.

First, higher education should not be part of a political football game. Render quality education accessible to all. Do not confine it to a race-based quota system, with respect to student intake or hiring of lecturers and top university administrators.

Second, hire and retain academic staff in universities, based on their intellectual merit. Deans and senior university administrators must be constantly aware of any lecturer who publishes inane works, even though such nonsense may be in the form of 30 journal articles per annum.

For instance, how can research about whether the supernatural can be scientifically proven or not, be beneficial to solving our post-GE14 socio-political and religious problems?

The deans and deputy vice-chancellors must be tuned into the quality of their academic staff. They must have a basic knowledge of their contribution in their respective fields.

A dean in a social science faculty, for instance, must make it a point to have a general knowledge of all the social science fields under their charge. If not, he or she should not be a dean.

Third, heads of departments should have a collegial relationship with their fellow lecturers. There is no room for hierarchy, pulling rank or bullying.

Lecturers within a department must work as a team, within an atmosphere of mutual deference and respect. The head must provide motivation and encouragement, rather than react with jealousy and insecurity.

Academics must be encouraged to speak, deliver public lectures, engage in national and international debates, and be commended for it. Unfortunately, there is an unhealthy and counterproductive culture of egoism, selfishness, jealousy and arrogance in the corridors of our public universities.

Most, if not all, academics in a university have a doctorate. So why should there be a sense of insecurity or superiority?

Fourth, university lecturers must take pride in their teaching and writing. Whether they do so in English, Malay, Mandarin or Tamil is irrelevant.

While one must be practical, what is more important is the positive attitude these academics possess when they engage in honest research.

What they choose as a research agenda and how relevant it is in the Malaysian context should be the decisive factors in academic teaching, writing and research.

Fifth, a lot more effort must go into how syllabuses are devised for various courses. Individual lecturers must take pride in the uniqueness and relevance of their syllabus.

It is my experience that such an important exercise of creating one’s syllabus is actually considered the least important of activities leading up to every semester.

Sixth, publications and research projects must be based on quality, not quantity. In the social sciences, for example, it is ineffectual to expect a new research topic to emerge every year or two, for the sake of satisfying annual KPI requirements of the research universities.

Due to our obsession with chasing KPIs and benchmarking global ranking systems, lecturers have resorted to mass production of publications and research projects. The majority are useless, and reports merely collect dust on dingy shelves.

It seems our university leadership is unaware that academic publishing has become a lucrative global business, with annual revenues exceeding billions of dollars.

This business is closely associated with the world university ranking system. Unsuspecting academics in countries like Malaysia race to publish in journals produced by these publishers, without realising that they are held at economic ransom, regardless of quality or research relevance to individual countries or regions.

It is time that Malaysian universities decide for themselves what research and publications are relevant for our own society, based on the current problems and national unity complications we face.

The high rate of unemployed university graduates is proof that there is a disconnect between what they learn in the universities and what employers want. This is due to a skewed view of the objectives of our higher education, and the quality of our educators.

We also have to be more obsessed with merit and substance, rather than what is politically expedient. For example, the appointment of a non-Malay vice chancellor of any public university in Malaysia should no longer be questioned or considered a sensitive issue.

There should be no hesitation, provided one is qualified academically, and has the right attitude towards teaching, research and intellectual development for national progress.

There is one area of higher education that has never been discussed, even though we constantly address the lack of critical thinkers and intellectuals in Malaysia.

The “Socratic Method” is a method of educational instruction that should be employed in university classrooms, in all fields. It is a method of hypothesis elimination, in that better suppositions are found during a debate or discussion.

The process of discussion involves asking a series of questions formulated as tests of logic. Instead of answering questions directly, questions are answered in the form of another question, which prompts the person or group to discover their beliefs about a topic, on their own. In this situation, the active participation of the lecturer is paramount.

Therefore, the Socratic Method encourages constant dialogue in the classroom, and sharpens the mind in logic, reason and arguments. In the process, students develop self confidence and a desire to read widely so they can engage more in classroom discussion. A silent student would feel embarrassed in a class full of chatty, logical peers.

While it is good to incorporate audio-visual techniques and other forms of innovative technology into teaching, university lecturers should not neglect the power of dialogue.

The Socratic Method would generate a cohort of graduates who will perform well in a job interview, show confidence and display a wide range of knowledge in the field. It also keeps lecturers on their toes and forces them to be updated in their respective fields. This is genuine educational empowerment, not mere rhetoric, based on fancy global terminology.
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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

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Death of western democracies?


I told you so’: Trump showing off a copy of USA Today’s front page featuring his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, as he arrived to address the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. — Reuters

ANGOLA, Haiti and Cambodia are “Banana Republics”: countries where the rule of law has been traduced by a man or woman or group seeking their own aggrandisement.

There is a new addition to this list: the United States of America. As one of the oldest and proudest of the world’s democracies, this country’s appalling downgrade is testament to one man’s work.

His name is Donald Trump and he is the 45th President. TV reality show star, charlatan and bigot, Trump has tweeted his nation’s principles – as articulated by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights – into a pulp.

Of course, he had help. He has been ably assisted by a coterie of men and women known as “Republicans”. In the years to come, as historians pore over the catastrophe that is the Trump Presidency, tracking its dismal, neo-fascist trajectory, one of the most important dates will be his acquittal by the US Senate from impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress on Feb 5,2020.

The Americans have demonstrated that the highest office in their land and the most powerful in the world – the Presidency – can be manipulated for personal gain, that their political elite will actively enable this.

Across the Atlantic, a buffoonish Old-Etonian turned hack journalist turned politician Boris Johnson has parlayed Brexit to not only propel himself to 10 Downing Street but also persuade the UK’s working-classes to vote against their own interests.

Membership in the European Union was more than just about common markets and free movement. It was limiting, but that’s precisely the point: all its members accepted the EU’s strictures to create confidence and hence, the conditions for peace as well as development in their continent.

All of that has gone out of the window now.

If the Yanks who want to “Make America Great Again” are living in a Banana Republic – their British cousins who want to “regain control” via Brexit exist in a posh-boy rerun of Downtown Abbey crossed with 1917 and the Raj Quartet.

What happened? How have centuries-old democracies become so fragile and even self-destructive?

First: inequality has gotten out of hand. The neoliberal, trickle-down economic policies launched by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the late 1970/80’s fuelled a massive shift in prosperity from workers and the middle-classes to owners and shareholders. Real wages stagnated and tax policies benefited the recipients of dividends not generated by their own labour.

Subsequently, more centrist leaders (such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Barrack Obama) maintained much of the same policies. And the numbers don’t lie.

When Thatcher came to power in 1979, the UK manufacturing industry employed 6.8 million people – by 2016 this had fallen to 2.6 million.

In 2017, three of the US’ richest individuals collectively held more wealth than the bottom 50% of their country’s population –160 million people. Gini coefficients (a measure of inequality) are shooting up on both sides of the Atlantic.

Moreover, the advent of social media allowed fake and demagogic information to be spread quickly as well as unchecked, shifting the national discourse and mood almost at will.

Meanwhile, ethnic and religious minorities as well as women – rightfully – sought greater representation in the public life and culture of the West.

However, the failure of the Anglo-American elite to address the above-mentioned inequalities led the white-majority working classes to feel that their leaders were more interested in playing identity politics than protecting them.

At the same time, a refugee crisis emanating from the Middle East and North Africa (in the US, the refugee crisis is predominantly Latino) heightened white anxieties over being displaced in their own countries.

This gave the opportunity for Trump and other demagogues to rise. Economic inequities and cultural insecurities fuelled white nativist impulses.

It’s not clear if the progressives can blunt this wave (Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn failed dismally) and the chaos in Iowa Democratic Party caucuses only underlines the gloom.

We, in Southeast Asia must learn from the fragility of these Northern Atlantic democracies.

Their mistakes aside – democracy is still the best way forward – especially for multi-racial and multi-religious countries.

What’s key is to avoid the pitfalls the West fell for. We must address the growing inequality of our societies. Growth alone will not bring stability and peace.

A 2018 World Bank report found that Indonesia’s Gini Index worsened from 30.0 in the 1990s to 38.1 in 2017. Singapore (45.8 in 2016), Malaysia (45.5 in 2008) and the Philippines (44.4 in 2015) all had Gini Indexes above 40: signs of higher income inequality.

Leaders ignore warning signs like this at their peril. We must invest in our people: their safety, health, education and skills.

Next, social media must be brought to heel. Hate speech and deliberately provocative postings must be curbed without resorting to undue repression.

The obvious racial and religious fissures in our societies must be managed very carefully. Common ground needs to be found – or created – between our majority and minority communities.

And we must remain engaged: both informed about the issues and vigilant against cynical manipulators of our insecurities.

It may seem like a daunting task when our former colonial masters and role models have failed so miserably. There is no choice. We cannot join the Americans and the British in rubbish dump of history

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A Look at USA 2009 H1N1 Virus Compared to China 2020 Corona Virus : Vicious, Political & Xenophobic Racist Attacks Against China Needs To Stop


 

加油中国!When the United States 2009 H1N1 swine flu emerged, an international emergency, a declared global pandemic, it eventually infected 60 million and initially killed a minimum of 18,449 cases that year. But the final story of the H1N1 global pandemic was far worse than that, with close to 300,000 deaths, according to the final tallies in 2012 reported by the CDC, as you will read below.

Which is why I am scratching my head at how bizarrely negative forces are attacking China and Chinese people as it engages a remarkably aggressive front addressing this Corona virus outbreak which started in Wuhan, central China. I am forced to ask and answer a few questions.

During 2009 H1N1 outbreak, I don’t recall xenophobic anti-America attacks across the globe, do you? In fact, do you recall it took six months for the U.S. to declare a national emergency? Did any government from the onset in April 2009 through the end in April 2010, including the month of June, when H1N1 was declared an international emergency global pandemic, then send out a notice to its citizens that they should leave the United States? Close their borders to American travelers? Nope, not a peep.

Like I said, something’s not right, folks. I am reading hateful vicious attacks on the Chinese government for their supposed intentional conspiracy to intentionally under report the number of infections, yet that is exactly and always the case with such flu outbreaks no matter what country and the CDC reports illustrate that crystal clear. The U.S. H1N1 swine flu numbers were vastly underestimated and updated three years later, because dear friends, that is the nature of such viral outbreaks which don’t care which country they started in. There is never enough man power, there are never enough test kits, there is never enough medicine or medical supplies. China is not trying to hide these hardships, they are well known, they are being reported on the news daily in China. There are always people who die, thousands of them whom we’ll never know if they actually died because of a particular virus. Those are the facts, not any problem unique to China’s healthcare system or government.

Its not a conspiracy, its just tragedy.

According to the June 27, 2012 research report followup three years later, it gets much more disturbing when you learn about the CDC’s final estimate of the H1N1 virus global death toll. You and I find at this at this article at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy website, the CDC’s 18,449 total deaths number was “…regarded as WELL BELOW THE TRUE TOTAL, mainly because many people who die of flu-related causes are not tested for the disease.” So during the 2009 outbreak, was anyone accusing the American medical and government authorities of hiding the numbers? Were Americans with hidden cameras strolling into the Mayo Clinic to PROVE how many people were really dying? The absurdity of these vicious attacks are that whether or not a person specifically does have the Corona virus or some other viral bug presenting as pneumonia, the treatment is the same supportive treatment anyway.

Something’s not right here folks. The world should be applauding China’s unprecedented, broad, aggressive response. (WHO officials and many other government and healthcare officials across the globe are.) I am on the ground here in China READ IT HERE watching with my own eyes and it is quite incredible by any measure, not to mention an enormous economic sacrifice.

Instead of looking at the will of an entire system of government acting faster than any other government on the planet could, we are one month later, still busy bashing a few local government officials in Wuhan who should have told us a couple weeks sooner. And yes, that is true those local officials screwed up. And by the way, those officials are in deep trouble for it. Just like the recent Puerto Rican politicians who are in trouble when we learned they didn’t distribute hurricane emergency supplies that were sent to them to help during last year’s terrible hurricane. A disgrace. Individual people screw up all the time and hopefully justice gets served later, but that’s not an indictment of an entire country’s government. Secondly, on this point, every provincial government has sent out a notice to its government officials pretty much saying that if they are stupid enough to do the same, they will face the wrath of harsh punishment. I don’t doubt it for a moment. Lets contrast to what countless western politicians have gotten away with and remain in office to remind all of us that human error, stupidity and greed is not unique to any particular skin color or race or country. “What about…” reactions don’t help.

And here’s the mic drop for you: “The CDC researchers estimate that the H1N1 2009 pandemic virus caused 201,200 respiratory deaths and another 83,300 deaths from cardiovascular disease associated with H1N1 infections.” Total: 284,000 deaths. Shocking, isn’t it?

Was there a travel ban for any length of time to and from the United States?

Did China, Germany, Japan or any other country close their border to American travelers?

Today I noticed in the updates that following the United States Department of State policy suggesting U.S. citizens leave China, the United Kingdom embassy just released the same recommendation to subjects of the kingdom.

In 2009, did UK subjects in America get a notice from their kingdom to leave America? No.

Did the world suggest we isolate from America? Close the U.S. borders!? No.

Did Americans get xenophobically attacked and targeted by anti-American sentiments like the Chinese are experiencing now? Um, no.

Fascinating and disturbing to say the least. If you’re an expat currently in China, unless you’re in Wuhan, fact is that you’re most likely safer and more peaceful and more stable by simply staying put than by leaving right now. You couldn’t be safer than in this country, where almost everyone is staying home and dutifully isolating themselves with awareness. Not to mention that the Chinese government’s decision to safeguard the society, the families, the people, is coming at a devastating economic cost in the hundreds of billions.

I have a friend in Mesa, Arizona. He told me earlier that the big popular China City buffet, a huge busy place, has no customers. Does that make any sense at all?

Let’s test our ability to reason, to be rational:

If you were in Miami and you heard that there was a virus outbreak that started in Milan, in central Italy, would you cancel your dinner reservation at the Italian restaurant that night in South Beach? No. Would you buy a pizza next week at Joey’s Pizzeria in Delray Beach?

If you were in Singapore and you heard there was a virus outbreak in Dallas, Texas in the central United States, would you stop going to your favorite local Texas southern BBQ restaurant with the owner from Houston, in Singapore?

Would you avoid olive-skinned dark-haired Italian-looking people on the street in Chicago? Would you avoid big guys wearing cowboy hats, cuz they’re obviously from Texas in Singapore cuz there’s a virus in Dallas and they might have just gotten off the plane? There’s a strange senseless bullying extremism and activism in today’s society and you should do your best to avoid it and not be a part of it. It is fomented by a small group of extremist activists while definitely not supported by your average mainstream person who is simply exhausted by their outrage-inducing antics.

Finally, here are some straight up, sensible accurate descriptions of this Corona virus which started in Wuhan, China. Its not called the China virus and neither was H1N1 called the America virus. Whether two weeks or two months from now, this flu season type virus will have passed and the joy of Spring will have arrived. Just like every flu season. However, don’t misunderstand me. The extra caution and the remarkable response by the Chinese governments and people together to quell the spread of this virus was warranted because, yes it is correct that this corona virus is nastier than the usual annual flu bug, as was H1N1 in 2009. As of now, what we can confidently note the following regarding this Corona virus:

This Corona virus is highly contagious, it spreads quite easily. It binds to lung tissue and so in particular, likes to cause pneumonia, that’s what infection of lung tissue is. That’s more severe than a respiratory infection which is only in your throat or bronchial tubes.

The Corona virus currently has a 2% death rate. That’s a lot higher, around 20x higher, than a more typical annual flu virus with a death rate of 0.1%. However, a 2% death rate is still much lower by comparison to the SARS virus which had a 9% death rate or the MERS virus with a really nasty 37% death rate.

The Corona virus is causing severe symptoms in 10-15% of cases. 80% to 90% of deaths from this virus are happening in elderly patients, mostly with other existing health problems, not younger people. That characteristic by the way, is in contrast to the America 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus which in fact had a higher death rate amongst younger people including children rather than those over 60 years old.

China identified and shared the Corona virus genome in record times, in only days and of course, immediately shared it with all international health and disease organizations. Medical researchers are already discovering that certain existing anti-viral medications seem to be effective against this Corona virus.

Its impossible not to marvel at China’s broad and aggressive domestic response directed by the provincial level governments to restrict movement, restrict transportation, restrict business for a period of time combined with the voluntary dutiful cooperation of its 1.3 billion citizens who are in the majority quietly staying at home these weeks to let the virus pass; this model response is already being hailed by the international community as a remarkable unprecedented response setting a new standard in understanding what is possible for future outbreaks in whatever country they may occur. Is it inconvenient and costly. You bet.

Like I said, something’s not right with the way humanity is responding to what’s happening here. I haven’t put my finger on it because well, its certainly complex and the world is upside down in many other ways that I also can’t for the life of me understand or explain without ending up writing a very thick book.

But I do know this: It needs to stop. This vicious, political, xenophobic racist attacks and smearing of all things China needs to stop. Its really not helping anyone in the political corridors of Washington nor is it doing anything to help the man on the street who is just concerned with taking care of his family.

My family is originally from the Basilicata region of Italy, the little hillside Italian towns of Potenza and also, Grottola, which is just outside of Matera. They left their home country and moved to America where I was born, in Yonkers, New York. America became their home and it was my home until I left, too. Now over two decades ago, I left the United States, the country I was born in, the country that has plenty to admire and plenty to improve. But I left and I came to China and now China is my home. If you had asked me thirty years ago if this was my life plan on planet earth, I would have said you were nuts or a really bad fortune teller. But that’s how it has turned out. I am truly blessed with my lovely Chinese wife and our family living here in Shenyang in China’s northeast. You get my meaning? I am a mature adult like many with the powers of observation. I can easily see that whether we are talking about China or the United States or any other country, their societies and their governments have good points and bad points.

The xenophobia needs to stop now. Whether in a couple of weeks or months later, this nasty flu type Corona virus will begin declining and the joy of Spring will arrive. Between now and then if you don’t have anything good, anything supportive to say about China or Chinese people, how about you just keep your mouth shut.

Mario Cavolo, Shenyang.

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Mario Cavolo


Mario Cavolo

 

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Curbing coronavirus while targeting China | Free Malaysia …

 


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US seeks selfish gains as China goes all out to curtail coronavirus spread


Fear of the unknown  

 

Battling epidemic of ignorance

 

Fight the virus, not China:

https://youtu.be/uDdYT1yTQdw

While China marshals a collective effort to combat the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), some Western countries, led by the US, are seizing the opportunity to stir up trouble and attack China’s system.

The truth is, US system is not nearly as efficient as the Chinese system. The US method of resolving problems is to procrastinate. For example, US President Donald Trump’s administration simply chooses to build a border wall to resolve illegal immigration issues.

Trump wanted to build the wall, but Democrats in the US Congress oppose it. Such a situation leads to procrastination and public complaints. Various interest groups often have different demands and goals on major issues. Thus, the US is often inefficient in resolving problems, including the spread of influenza in the US.

The US always calculates economic cost when responding to public health issues and emergencies. For example, when the wildfires swept across California in 2018, the local government paid inmates only $1 an hour to fight the fires. In many parts of the US, even firefighting has been privatized and handed to profit-seeking corporations. This basic service now depends on how much people can pay. For the Chinese government, people’s safety is top priority. Only by completely eliminating the spread of the virus can the Chinese government fulfill its responsibilities.

The US also tends to hype the human rights issue. The New York Times claimed that China’s lockdown of the city of Wuhan, in Central China’s Hubei Province “would almost certainly lead to human rights violations.”

The statement is immoral and distorts the truth. Essentially, public health issues are not an issue of human rights. There must be efficient prevention and control.

During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the US did not conduct inspections at airports and borders as soon as it could, which failed to contain the spread of the disease. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people’s houses were damaged by floods and robberies were rampant.

Why didn’t the US talk about human rights then? When facing the challenge of survival, the rights of individuals must be subordinated to the needs of majority. This is the same in both Eastern and Western ethics. When it comes to life and death, we must first solve the problem of survival before considering how to live more comfortably.

Although the US claims to be tolerant of diverse opinions, criticizing China is mainstream political discourse. Whenever something goes wrong in China, many US media outlets and politicians consistently attribute the problem to China’s system.

China is fighting the 2019-nCoV with confidence. However, some remarks emanating from the US are quite negative, a result of Washington’s prejudice, double standards, and binary opposition mind-set.

Some US politicians tend to interpret non-political issues with a political thinking. They are unaware that such problems require global efforts. Certain US accusations against China are morally indecent, which may negatively influence the world’s efforts to jointly address the 2019-nCoV and other similar public health issues.

Attacking China’s system clearly deviates from the general trend in which all countries around the world join hands to cope with public health issues. Such a move reflects that some US politicians lack a conscience and a spirit of self-reflection, especially so when considering the US itself has failed to properly handling similar problems.

While the 2019-nCoV remains so far unchecked, all countries and regions should coordinate and cooperate to cope with the challenges of bringing it under control. The US should pay more attention to exchanging experiences with China to avoid similar outbreaks, rather than politicizing the issue and placing blame.

Tackling the 2019-nCoV requires a systematic approach, and internal and external efforts must be jointly made. China should first handle its internal affairs. In the course of dealing with the epidemic, despite some twists and turns, the country’s general direction is very clear – to defeat the virus and restore public confidence.

This crisis needs a national effort. Relevant policies and resources should be made and allocated step by step, leading to a sustainable and virtuous cycle. This is the fundamental direction we need to respond to outside doubt.

Meanwhile, we should also publicize our fruitful work in an effective way, and inject the international community with more confidence in China’s actions.

China should work with other countries and regions to cope with the 2019-nCoV and make timely and prompt counterattacks against forces with evil intentions. In this way, the world will see which countries are really working on public health issues, and which have ulterior motives. This is also an efficient way to respond to some US politicians’ groundless attacks against China, so that their accusations collapse onto themselves.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporters Li Qingqing and Yan Yunming based on an interview with Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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万万没想到!武汉告急!最先对中国动手的竟是这7国!3大无耻行为暴露真实面目!这笔帐中国人永不忘记!

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Thursday (local time) in Geneva the novel coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), putting pressure on China amid the deadly virus battle, as more countries are likely to issue travel advisories and impose trade restrictions.

 

Chinese analysts said although there is no need to exaggerate the impact of the declaration, the country needs to focus on containing the spread of the pneumonia as its top priority, as countries would adjust travel and trade policies based on the changing situation, and a complete recovery also depends on progress made during China’s nationwide fight against the virus.

The WHO emphasized that the declaration was not a vote of no confidence on China. Over the past few weeks, the WHO has witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference on Thursday.

After considering multiple factors, WHO designated the coronavirus as a PHEIC. However, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s ability to control the outbreak.

Following the PHEIC declaration, the US State Department warned Americans not to go to China, becoming the first country of issuing travel alert to its citizens, despite the WHO emphasized on Thursday that it did not suggest other countries impose travel and trade restrictions on China.

A US State Department notice said travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Commercial carriers have reduced or suspended flights to and from China.

Those currently in China should consider leaving using commercial means, it said, noting that the department has requested all non-essential US government personnel to defer travel to China because of the novel coronavirus. The travel warning is the highest Level 4 – Do Not Travel – in the US.

At least 98 novel coronavirus cases have been reported in 18 countries outside of China, including eight human-to-human transmissions in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US. The majority of the cases outside of China involved people who had traveled to Wuhan, or were in contact with someone who had visited the city, according to the WHO.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. Photo: VCG

Damage to both sides

The US travel warning may cause other nations to follow, considering its geopolitical influence, some Chinese analysts forecast, reminding other countries to heed the WHO advise.

The US is overreacting and the warning would greatly hurt global tourism and hinder people-to-people exchanges, Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Ni predicted that other Western countries may follow the US in issuing travel restrictions to China.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that the US government’s move shows its unilateralism, which is unsurprising.

The WHO clarified that they did not suggest other countries impose travel and trade restrictions on China. The advise was made based on multidimensional considerations and global public health interests, which the US ignored, Zeng told the Global Times.

The US government had ordered the departure of all non-urgent US personnel and their family members from Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, the coronavirus’ epicenter, on January 23.

Some foreign airlines have suspended flights to China including Air Canada, United Airlines, British Airlines and IndiGo.

Imposing restrictions on personal exchanges between the US and China would significantly weigh on US interests in China, considering the huge presence of American companies in China, said Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University.

“It may also trigger a humanitarian crisis, as American citizens have married Chinese people, and if they are forced to leave, many families would be separated,” Li said.

Many US companies are becoming increasingly entrenched in China, including major US-listed firms such as Tesla, Starbucks, Apple and Boeing, therefore restricting personnel exchanges between China and the US would also have an impact on the US stock market, according to analysts.

The US government had also issued travel alerts on previous public health incidents declared by the WHO, including the H1N1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic in 2009, Ebola outbreak in West Africa and polio in 2014, media reported. During the Ebola outbreak, the State Department alerted US citizens to follow screening procedures and travel restrictions, and reduce air travel to countries including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.

People make protective suits at a medical company in Hefei, east China’s Anhui Province, Thursday. To help fight the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus, workers of some medical material companies rushed to work ahead of schedule to make protective equipment. Photo: Xinhua


Top priority

According to the International Health Regulations (IHR), if the WHO declares a PHEIC, the director-general shall issue temporary recommendations, including health measures regarding people, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods and parcels to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease and avoid unnecessary interference to international traffic.

However, temporary recommendations are non-binding advisories issued by the WHO and are on a time-limited, risk-specific basis, according to IHR.

When WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a PHEIC, the organization emphasized it was essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities, in a statement published on its website in July 2019.

Under the IHR, countries implementing additional health measures going beyond what WHO recommends will be required to provide a public health rationale and justification within 48 hours of implementation for WHO to review, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told the Global Times on Thursday.

The WHO is obliged to share information about measures and the justification received with other countries involved, Jasarevic said, noting that countries are asked to provide public health justification for any travel or trade measures that are not scientifically based, such as refusal of entry based on suspected cases or unaffected persons to affected areas.

Chinese analysts said it was not necessary to overreact or interpret the news as a hostile attitude toward China from the global community. The shared priority is to prevent the deadly virus from spreading across the globe.

“Indeed, it may place extra pressure to China, with both economic and political implications,” said Shen Yi, director at the Research Center for Cyberspace Governance of Fudan University.

“But it depends on how China continues fighting the epidemic in order to help its economy recover,” Shen said, noting that the WHO decision has little influence on how other countries handle economic ties with China amid the pneumonia outbreak.

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New strategies needed for Malaysian tourism


Cautious visitors: Tourists seen wearing face masks as they enter Malaysia through the Johor Baru Custom, Immigration and Quarantine Complex recently.

IT’S an unfortunate start to Visit Malaysia Year 2020 with the outbreak of the coronavirus putting a tumble to travelling, and it’s a tad more ominous that mainland China tourists have been our key market.

The Chinese government has already placed its faith in Malaysia by launching the Malaysia-China Year of Culture and Tourism 2020 to boost bilateral ties and friendship between the Asian nations.

However, the World Health Organisation’s declaration of a global health emergency has further dented the promotional efforts of Tourism Malaysia. To suggest minimal impact on Malaysia is a fallacy, to put it mildly.

Tourism revenue has always been regarded low hanging fruit, and with the improved performances of 2019, this year was supposed to kick off with more tourist arrivals.

Malaysia reported its half-year tourism results, until Aug 2019, declaring that tourist arrivals reached 13.35 million, up 4.9%, while tourist receipts improved 6.8% over the same period in 2018.

Tourism Malaysia’s data summary indicates the travel industry had contributed RM41.69bil in revenue to the country’s economy from January to June in 2019.

Apparently, the performance also saw growth in terms of per capita expenditure, rising by 1.9% to RM3,121.6, while the average length of stay climbed by 0.4 nights to 6.2 nights.

The top 10 source markets for arrivals were Singapore (5,381,566), Indonesia (1,857,864), China (1,558,782), Thailand (990,565), Brunei (627,112), India (354,486), South Korea (323,952), the Philippines (210,974), Vietnam (200,314) and Japan (196,561).

There are plenty of day trippers from Singapore and Indonesia, given our close proximity.

So, the numbers from China are significant. It’s glaring that East Asian and Asean arrivals continued to dominate the share of tourist arrivals to Malaysia with a 70% contribution.

The medium-haul market and long-haul market represented 20.8% and 9.2% share, respectively.

Tourism Malaysia reported that the top five countries with highest receipts were Singapore (RM11.56bil), China (RM7.09bil), Indonesia (RM5.71bil), Thailand (RM1.70bil) and Brunei (RM1.52bil).

The five countries with the highest average length of stay were those from Saudi Arabia (10.5 nights), France (8.7 nights), Germany (8.3 nights), Netherlands (8.1 nights) and Canada (7.7 nights).

In 2018, Malaysia registered 25.8 million tourist arrivals and RM84.1bil in tourist receipts. For 2019, tourist arrivals reached 28.1 million with tourist receipts of RM92.2bil.

While Malaysia, like most countries, has understandably become concerned with China’s continuing struggle with the virus, it’s crucial we maintain our renowned hospitality when interacting with Chinese tourists.

Chinese travellers have heeded caution by staying home, and for those travelling, the last thing they’d want is to feel unwelcome, or even discriminated.

News reports have already filtered in that Chinese tourists – and in some cases, even Singaporeans – have been asked to leave restaurants and tourist spots in some countries.

Our Prime Minister has made the right move by announcing that the decision to close mosques and tourist attractions to travellers, given the novel coronavirus outbreak, is not government policy.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad went so far as to describe such moves as irresponsible, saying the government never declared that mosques or museums were closed to tourists because they could be infected by the coronavirus.

“This is not a government policy and it is an irresponsible act, ” he told a press conference after chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting last week.

Among the mosques that have closed temporarily to tourists are the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque and the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya, as well as the Federal Territory mosque in Kuala Lumpur. They have since been opened.

Dr Mahathir also warned the public against spreading fake news meant to stir ill feelings between races.

Closing mosques to non-Muslims also doesn’t make sense when there are many Chinese citizens who are Muslims. The fact is there are more Muslims in China than Malaysia. However, unlike people, this virus doesn’t discriminate and will make victims of any race or religion.

Thermal detectors

So, it will be more effective and sensible to install thermal detectors at these popular mosques, and place medical personnel there to monitor the situation.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi has rightly said that tourists, particularly Chinese nationals, should not be discriminated and said tourists coming into the country would have been screened at the entry points, including airports.

Recently, West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno drew flak from netizens after amateur video recordings of him welcoming Chinese visitors in a well-attended parade at the Minangkabau International Airport in Padang went viral on Twitter, amid concerns over a domestic coronavirus outbreak.

A video uploaded on Sunday by Twitter user @dedetsaugia, in which Irwan could be seen addressing the tourists, has been viewed over 2.1 million times and retweeted over 6,000 times at the time of writing. As reported by kompas.com, Irwan welcomed the foreign visitors after they were declared healthy in a medical examination conducted with thermal scanners installed at the airport.

“The arrival of these tourists is expected to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting West Sumatra in the future, ” Irwan was quoted by Antara news agency.

“We cannot reject foreign arrivals when they have prepared all the required documentation. We have taken anticipatory measures by conducting a detailed check-up.”

The reaction of these netizens is in bad taste, and reeks of xenophobia. Credit to the West Sumatra authorities for showing much greater grace.

Asean and East Asian tourists will continue to dominate our tourist arrivals.

Like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which hit Hong Kong and southern parts of China in 2003, the coronavirus appears to be a winter phenomenon. Over 700 people died then. China is now still in a cold season, although it’s already spring.

But this time, unlike 2003, it has happened during the Lunar New Year festival when millions travel home, across China, to be with their families. The CNY season is also a time for many Chinese to holiday abroad.

According to Wuhan officials, there are still over 4,000 Wuhan tourists overseas as of Jan 27, and certainly, this can’t be comforting for many.

China has adopted a more transparent approach this time, unlike in 2003, when it didn’t reveal the health threat until five months after the SARS outbreak.

This time around, it has done things differently by updating the world on developments with the epidemic.

Last week, the Chinese Embassy here even started a Whatsapp group – with a long list of media people – where everyone is kept informed, and the channel is used to share information, verify reports and keep the local media in the loop.

While China is fighting against time to battle the virus, it isn’t likely that this will drag on until the summer season.

Although this is very much a Wuhan problem, many travellers have postponed plans to fly and even going as far as avoiding crowds.

Malaysia is a country with a hot climate and open spaces, but that hasn’t stopped many of us from wearing masks as a precaution. Never mind that our streets and MRT aren’t congested unlike how it is in Japan, China or Hong Kong.

My relatives from Singapore called to say they were no longer coming to Kuala Lumpur for a CNY reunion! Talk about over-reaction!

For sure our tourist numbers will be hit, but Malaysia can’t afford to wait.

It must work on the right markets for us to meet the numbers and ensure the success of Visit Malaysia Year.

Mohamaddin has downplayed the fear that tourism numbers will decline, saying the loss in tourism revenue from the ban will be minimal, and added that the ministry will not revise its campaign target of getting 30 million visitors this year.

“The travel ban will only cause a small impact as it is only for those from Wuhan. But people from other countries such as Australia and England are still able to visit Malaysia. So, the target remains as it is, ” he said.

Of course, Malaysia will be affected. Australians, Britons and Americans may stay longer when they visit Malaysia, but their numbers are negligible, and they are certainly not the biggest spenders.

In fact, for 2017, the East Asia market showed a 6.3% growth, while other markets saw a decline, i.e., Asean markets dropped by -3.9%, Europe (-1.7%), Americas (-4.3%), Oceania (-5.4%) Central Asia (-6.4%), Africa (-7%), West Asia (-12.3%) and South Asia (-13.3%).

Asean, or the short-haul market, dominated with a 75.1% share of total tourist arrivals and brought a total of 19,478,575 tourists to Malaysia. The medium-haul market share was 19.1%, with 4,948,123 tourists, while the long-haul market share was 5.9%, with a total of 1,520,389 tourists.

For 2017, the top 10 tourist source markets for Malaysia were Singapore with 12,441,713 tourist arrivals, Indonesia (2,796,570), China (2,281,666), Thailand (1,836,522), Brunei (1,660,506), India (552,739), South Korea (484,528), Japan (392,777), the Philippines (370,559), and Britain (358,818).

For China, the market surpassed the target for this region with an increase of 7.45% to 2.28 million arrivals, while an increase of flight frequency by AIRASIA X made Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu choice destinations for Koreans.

Arrivals from Indonesia and China, which made up Malaysia’s second and third largest respectively, have been increasing. In 2018, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia climbed by 29% year-on-year, while the number of tourists from Indonesia increased by 17%.

This is a good time to re-design our strategies and engage with stakeholders – including tour operators, food and beverage outlet owners, hoteliers, mall operators and media – to see how we can support Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

We should also seek the support of famous Malaysians like Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Jimmy Choo, Henry Golding and others to be our Tourism Ambassadors since they have millions of fans worldwide.

We are all rooting for a resounding success.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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Coronavirus outbreak: WHO declares an international public health emergency


https://youtu.be/8NnNunRXR80

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday said that the novel coronavirus outbreak has become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

However, the UN health body stressed that it does not recommend limiting trade and travel.

It also once again spoke highly of China’s prevention and containment measures.

A WHO declaration of an international public health emergency is rare, with only five going into effect in the past decade. These include situations concerning the 2009 H1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic, West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, polio in 2014, the Zika virus in 2016 and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

No need to overreact on coronavirus PHEIC label: analysts 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus a global public health emergency (PHEIC), emphasizing that it was not a vote of no confidence in China. Chinese analysts said there is no need to overreact to the declaration while fighting the virus, although it could add extra pressure to the world’s second-largest economy.

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday.

At least 98 novel coronavirus cases have been reported in 18 countries, including eight human-to-human transmissions in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the US. The majority of the cases outside of China involved people who had traveled to Wuhan, or were in contact with someone who had visited the city, said Ghebreyesus.

After considering multiple factors, WHO designated the coronavirus as a PHEIC. However, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s ability to control the outbreak.

Chinese analysts said it was not necessary to overreact or interpret the news as a hostile attitude toward China from the global community. The shared priority is to prevent the deadly virus from spreading across the globe.

“Indeed, it may give extra pressure to China, with both economic and political implications,” Shen Yi, director at the Research Center for Cyberspace Governance of Fudan University, told the Global Times.

“But it’s up to how China continues fighting the epidemic in order to help its economy recovered,” Yi said, noting that the WHO decision has little influence on how other countries handle economic ties with China amid the pneumonia outbreak.

Serious events that endanger international health are considered to be PHEIC as it constitutes a risk to other countries through the spread of the disease, which is also “serious, unusual, or unexpected,” and carries implications for public health beyond the affected country’s borders or requires immediate international action, according to WHO.

A PHEIC declaration is rare, as only five have been made in the past decade including the H1N1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic in 2009, West Africa’s Ebola, polio in 2014, the Zika virus in 2016, and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo that started in 2019.

Concerns have emerged over whether other countries would close their borders or impose trade and travel restrictions, which has happened in the past when a PHEIC is declared.

There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade, WHO said, calling for all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent after it declares novel coronavirus a global public health emergency.

According to the International Health Regulations (IHR), if the WHO declares a PHEIC, the director-general shall issue temporary recommendations including health measures regarding people, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods, and postal parcels to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease and avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic.

However, temporary recommendations are non-binding advisories issued by WHO and are on a time-limited, risk-specific basis, according to IHR.

When WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a PHEIC, the organization emphasized it was essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities, in a statement published on its website in July 2019.

Under the IHR, countries implementing additional health measures going beyond what WHO recommends will be obliged to send public health rationale and justification within 48 hours of implementation for WHO to review, said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic to the Global Times on Thursday.

WHO is obliged to share the information about measures and the justification received with other countries involved, Jasarevic said, noting that countries are asked to provide public health justification for any travel or trade measures that are not scientifically based, such as the refusal of entry based on suspect cases or unaffected persons to affected areas.

Yang Gonghuan, former director of tobacco control at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times that WHO would depend on the situation of the epidemic rather than targeting a specific place or for political purposes.

In response to concerns that a PHEIC would “hold China’s breath,” Yang said such thinking is “incorrect and unreasonable.”

“WHO’s decision and measures are based on the perspective of global disease prevention,” Yang said.

However, the PHEIC label could frighten contracting countries to the point that they could disobey WHO recommendations and impose more stringent limits on travel and trade with the country where the virus originated, which would create significant economic losses.

During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, WHO stressed the virus could not spread through pork products and yet over 40 countries banned pork imports from H1N1-affected nations, according to media reports.

Contracting states have agreed to follow WHO guidelines, and they should act within the forum of the organization, Yang noted.

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WHO chief: China deserves gratitude and respect for efforts to fight virus outbreak, against virus-related evacuations, as countries plan pull-outs


Fight the virus

WHO chief: China deserves gratitude and respect for efforts to fight virus outbreak …

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

 

GENEVA (Xinhua): The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday (Jan 29) that China deserves the international community’s gratitude and respect for having taken very serious measures to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak and prevent exporting cases overseas.

Addressing journalists at a press conference in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked the Chinese government for the extraordinary steps it has taken to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Tedros reiterated that almost 99 per cent of cases and all deaths have been within China, with only 68 confirmed cases and no deaths in 15 countries and regions outside China.

“For that, China deserves our gratitude and respect… China is implementing very serious measures and we cannot ask for more,” he said.

The WHO chief returned to Geneva on Wednesday from China, where he met with the Chinese leadership to discuss cooperation on implementing containment measures in Wuhan (the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak) and public measures in other cities and provinces, as well as on conducting studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, and sharing data and biological material.

He revealed that one of the strategies the WHO and China have agreed on and are following is serious and strong intervention at the epicentre, which helps limit the spread of the virus.

The WHO chief also thanked China for having identified the pathogen in a short time and shared it immediately, which has led to the rapid development of diagnostic tools.

“China has been completely committed to transparency, both internally and externally, and has agreed to work with other countries that need support,” he reiterated, citing the latest case in Germany which, due to the immediate notification and sharing of information by the Chinese government, was very quickly identified and given medical care.

The cooperation between China and Germany in responding to the outbreak is a good illustration of how China is engaging with the WHO and other countries based on the principles of solidarity and cooperation, Tedros said.

“The level of commitment (of the leadership) in China is incredible; I will praise China again and again, because its actions actually helped in reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus to other countries… we shall tell the truth and that’s the truth,” he concluded.

A WHO team of international experts is to visit China as soon as possible to increase the understanding of the outbreak and guide global response efforts.

Tedros also announced that the WHO Emergency Committee will meet again on Thursday to discuss the outbreak.

Earlier, the committee already met twice on Jan 22 and Jan. 23, and decided that the outbreak had not been a “public health emergency of international concern,” citing major reasons that the cases of infection outside China were still limited in number and that the Chinese authorities had already implemented very forceful containment measures. – Xinhua

 

President Xi: China sure of slaying the ‘devil’ virus

 

Xi said that the Chinese people are currently engaged in a serious fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak. People’s lives and physical health are always the first priority, and prevention and control of the virus is the most important task at present. Xi said: “I have personally been directing the effort and deploying resources, I believe that as long as we strengthen our confidence, help each other, control and prevent the virus appropriately, and implement policies precisely, we will definitely overcome this disease.”
The WHO chief said that China has released information transparently, identified pathogens in record time, and proactively shared relevant viral gene sequences with the World Health Organization and other countries. He added the world has admired how the Chinese government has demonstrated firm political determination and adopted timely and powerful policies in the face of the coronavirus. “I believe that the measures taken by China will effectively control and eventually overcome the disease.”

 

 

WHO: China virus evacuations not necessary | New Straits …

Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus takes part in a news conference after a meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland on Jan 22, 2020. (Photo credit: Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS) 

The head of the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that he is confident in China’s ability to contain a new coronavirus that has killed 106 people and that he did not think foreigners should be evacuated, China’s foreign ministry said.

A growing number of countries have said they will evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, a central city of 11 million people and the epicentre of the outbreak. A chartered plane taking out U.S. consulate staff was set to leave Wuhan on Wednesday, a spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Beijing said. Some space was being offered to other U.S. citizens.

India said it was preparing to evacuate its citizens from Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

Concern is mounting about the impact of the coronavirus may have on the world’s second-biggest economy amid travel bans and an extended Lunar New Year holiday. Global stocks fell again, oil prices hit three-month lows and China’s yuan currency dipped to its weakest in 2020.

The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a meeting with State Councillor Wang Yi in Beijing, said he approved of the government’s measures to curb the outbreak, the foreign ministry said.

“Tedros said the WHO does not advocate for countries to evacuate their citizens from China, adding there was no need to overreact,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “He said the WHO is confident in China’s ability to prevent and control the epidemic.”

The WHO chief, who also met Presiddent Xi Jinping, was not available for comment. A WHO panel of 16 independent experts twice last week declined to declare an international emergency over the outbreak.

The flu-like virus has spread overseas, with Sri Lanka and Germany the latest countries to be hit, but none of the 106 deaths has been outside China and all but six have been in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged last month.

Thailand confirmed six more infections among visitors from China, taking its tally to 14, the highest outside China. Far eastern Russian regions would close their borders with China until Feb. 7, Tass news agency said, citing the regional government.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong said cross-border ferry services would stop.

Wuhan, where the virus apparently jumped to a human in an illegal wildlife market, has been all but put under quarantine, with a lockdown on transport and bans on gatherings.

Tens of millions of others in Hubei live under some form of travel curbs set up to try to stifle the virus.

The WHO said only one of the overseas cases involved human-to-human transmission.

“That’s still one case too many. But we’re encouraged that so far we have not seen more human-to-human transmission outside China,” the WHO said on Twitter.

“We’re monitoring the outbreak constantly.”

Tuesday’s toll of 106 dead was up from 81 the day before. The number of total confirmed cases in China surged to 4,515 as of Monday from 2,835 the previous day, the National Health Commission said.

Incubation estimates

Analysts said China’s travel and tourism would be the hardest-hit sectors, together with retail and liquor sales, though healthcare and online shopping were seen as likely outperformers.

Officially known as “2019-nCoV”, the coronavirus can cause pneumonia, but it is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads.

Some health experts question whether China can contain it.

Chinese health officials say the incubation period could range from one to 14 days, and the virus is infectious during that time. The WHO estimated an incubation period of two to 10 days.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday offered China whatever help it needed, while the State Department said Americans should reconsider visiting China.

Canada, which has two infections and 19 potential cases, warned its citizens to avoid travel to Hubei.

Authorities in Hubei, home to nearly 60 million people, have been the focus of public outrage on China’s heavily censored social media over what many see as a bungled initial response to the virus.

In rare public self-criticism, Mayor Zhou Xianwang said Wuhan’s management of the crisis was “not good enough” and indicated he was willing to resign.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, following a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said his government put “paramount importance” on the epidemic and was working with the international community in a spirit of “openness, transparency and scientific coordination”.

Communist Party-ruled China has been eager to seem open in its handling of the epidemic, after it was heavily criticised for efforts to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed about 800 people globally in 2002-2003.

SARS, which was also believed to have originated in a wildlife market, led to a 45% plunge in air passenger demand in Asia. The travel industry is more reliant on Chinese travellers now, and China’s share of the global economy has quadrupled.

With Chinese markets shut for the holiday, investors were selling the offshore yuan and the Australian dollar as a proxy for risk. Oil was also under pressure as fears about the wider fallout grew.

The U.S. S&P 500 closed down nearly 1.6%.

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