Lessons on disaster management from China killer virus

Thursday, January 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Commuters wear face masks at Yichang East Railway Station, in Hubei, yesterday. China is striving to contain a new virus that has spread across the country. Photo/AFP

All eyes are turned towards China, as the world watches Beijing’s interventions to contain the new killer virus. 

Coronavirus is just a couple of weeks old, but it has sent reverberations all over the world. Many countries have started putting in place measures to prevent the virus from spreading within their borders.

Indeed, this shows that China’s global influence, whether positive or negative, cannot be gainsaid. It looks like when China coughs, the world catches a cold.

Not even the much more deadly Ebola virus, which occasionally erupts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causes such widespread panic.

But it is the seriousness with which the Chinese government is handling the crisis that is a case study of good governance.

Let us look at three interventions that speak volumes of how any administration should handle a crisis of such monumental proportions.

First, Wuhan city, the epicentre of the epidemic, is under lockdown, including pulling private vehicles and public transport from the road.

Alternatively, Wuhan government has organised over 300 buses and 6,000 taxis to ferry those who need to get to hospitals and workplaces. 

Medical staff members wear protective suits at the Zhongnan hospital in China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the new virus that has claimed 17 lives. Photo/AFP

The quarantine is necessary to ensure everyone in the area is screened and sanitised, in order to curb any escalation of the deadly virus.

Were such measures to be taken in Kenya, the human rights brigade would be all over about how the government is interfering with the people’s freedom of movement.

Secondly, Wuhan authorities are building two makeshift pneumonia hospitals, Huoshenshan Hospital with a capacity of 700 to 1,000 beds, and Leishenshan Hospital with 1,300 to 1,500 beds, in a record two weeks.

Need we say more about things like work ethic, commitment, innovation, and vision? 

Thirdly, China has sent 450 military medical staff, including professionals who have experience in the fight against SARS or Ebola, to Wuhan.

The medics were recently deployed by medical universities of the army, navy and air force of the People’s Liberation Army.

The teams comprising experts in respiratory health, infectious diseases, hospital infection control and intensive care unit, have been dispatched to Wuhan hospitals handling a large number of coronavirus-related pneumonia patients.

Closer home, we all admire such hands-on leadership. We revere the selflessness of dedicated public servants who pull all stops to ensure that lives are not needlessly lost during calamities.

Well, for us, such tragic events, like the ongoing locust invasion, are a time to line up our pockets with public funds. Precious time and energy is lost as cartels fight for tender supplies. 

Then there is the indecision of our bureaucracy, even when common sense would easily carry the day. Let’s pray the virus touch not touch base here!


For any sports lover, the name Kobe Bryant was top-of-mind, in the same league with other US all-time stars.

Bryant was the kind of guy we all admired for the money and power his talent in basketball had bestowed on him.

According to, Bryant “was the Black Mamba, a nickname he gave himself after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” in which the snake, known for its agility and aggressiveness, was used as a code name for a deadly assassin”.

His award winning exploits on the pitch when doing time for the Los Angeles Lakers were simply magical, comparable only to the legendary Michael Jordan.

So it was extremely unsettling when last Sunday evening the news flashed that the 41-year-old and his adorable 13-year-old daughter Gianna, were among nine people who perished in a helicopter crash in California.

I will simply say, in the words of Dwayne Wade, one of the first basketball stars to react to the news on Tweeter - “No, God please No!” —The writer is a communication expert [email protected]

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