China’s coronavirus outbreak calls out for Canada’s help – and we should respond, in the spirit of Dr. Bethune
Kenny Zhang, Jenny Li, ChiChi Wang and Zhenyu Cheng Contributed to The Globe and Mail Published February 7, 2020
Kenny Zhang is a Fudan University alumnus, Jenny Li is a graduate of Hubei University, ChiChi Wang is an alumnus of the University of British Columbia and Zhenyu Cheng is a Wuhan University alumnus. All are residents of Canada.
On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. But two days later, an even more surprising statement: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang asked the European Union to provide medical supplies to fight the epidemic unfolding in China.
This was highly unusual – top Chinese officials are not particularly known for their willingness to ask for international aid. But it points to the gravity and severity of the situation.
China is grappling with a severe public health challenge that is now outpacing the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003. As of today, more than 31,000 people in 28 countries and territories have been diagnosed with the new virus. The vast majority of those cases have emerged in China, where more than 600 people have died.
After 2019-nCoV was identified as originating in the city of Wuhan, the Chinese government took extraordinary measures to contain the outbreak. Wuhan and 13 surrounding cities have been locked down since Jan. 23 in a quarantine that affects more than 40 million people. It might be hard for Canadians to imagine this feat, but consider that Canada’s entire population is about 37 million.
However, the biggest challenge China faces is on the front lines. Doctors and nurses are racing against the clock and struggling to treat thousands of patients with dwindling supplies. Somehow, they are standing firm despite a shortage of hospital beds, staff, medicine and protective gear – even for themselves. Many doctors have worked throughout the day without drinking, eating or going to the bathroom simply to avoid replacing their protective suits. One doctor we know wore his son’s goggles to work for protection.
That the Chinese medical community is in mourning only heightens the anxiety. Dr. Li Wenliang, the Wuhan Central Hospital ophthalmologist who was among the first to identify the disease, passed away Friday.
Canada has confirmed five cases of its own – three in Ontario, two in British Columbia – but it has been acting vigorously and vigilantly, monitoring the situation, providing travel advice and evacuating Canadians in China. It’s remarkably brave of Ottawa to follow the WHO’s recommendation not to ban Chinese and other international travellers from China from entering the country. Furthermore, as acts of racism against the Chinese-Canadian community increase, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made statements criticizing anti-Chinese sentiments and misinformation about the coronavirus. “This,” he said, “is not something Canadians will ever stand for.”
These are admirable steps. But it is our belief that Canadians will only be truly safe when China wins its battle. And history may offer a good example of what Canada can still do to achieve this goal.
In the late 1930s, Canadian physician Norman Bethune brought modern medicine to rural China. He was credited with saving thousands of Chinese civilians and soldiers during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and for this he is revered even today in China. His story confirms the most effective way to save lives: supplying Canadian medical treatment to China.
Doing so will require three courses of action. First, we would urge Ottawa to continue demonstrating respectful concern and vigorous support as China combats this virus during this critical period. Secondly, we would recommend the Canadian government play a vital role in facilitating the procurement of medical supplies for hospitals in affected regions. Trade-promotion agencies can help by adding a medical-supplies section to their information portals to connect qualified Canadian suppliers with Chinese buyers. Thirdly, we would encourage Canadian health-care professionals and specialists to work with Chinese and international experts in developing treatments and a vaccine.
Ottawa and Beijing have had their differences. A prominent Chinese executive is facing extradition to the U.S., while two Canadian citizens remain in jail in China and a crippling import ban hurts Canadian canola farmers. But Canadians remain highly respected and liked in China – in no small part because of the legacy of people like Dr. Bethune.
There is a Chinese saying: “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” We hope we can focus on our shared humanity and give Chinese medical workers and citizens a hand during this extremely difficult time – for their sake, in the name of selflessness, in the spirit of Dr. Bethune.
由中国复旦大学经济学院（SOE）和加拿大亚太基金会（APF Canada）共同主办的2019复旦论坛：挑战、合作和延续于8月15日下午在温哥华西蒙菲莎大学校区的对话交流中心举行（SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue）。 论坛由复旦大学温哥华校友会副会长赵群主持，复旦大学经济学院加拿大（温哥华）联络处主任袁永平，西蒙菲莎大学对外关系副校长乔安娜·库里（Dr. Joanne Curry），以及中华人民共和国驻温哥华总领事佟晓玲分别致开幕欢迎辞；复旦大学经济学院院长张军教授，以及加拿大联邦独立参议员小组召集人胡元豹参议员发表精彩的主旨演讲，这部分由西蒙菲莎大学Beedie商学院研究和国际事务副院长卡罗琳·埃格里（Dr. Carolyn Egri）主持。 之后，中外学者、企业家进行了圆桌讨论以及嘉宾问答。在目前中美贸易战特殊时期，参会报名非常踊跃，全场座无虚席，而且增加了临时座位，近两百位嘉宾参会，演讲精彩、讨论激烈、问答踊跃。
Despite China’s rapidly developing technology scene, a leading economist visiting Vancouver said the Western world is mistaken in believing the country has leapfrogged the likes of the United States, Japan and South Korea in technological advancement.