Today the whole world is suffering from the coronavirus crisis. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already declared it a pandemic. So far, 2,47,488 people have been infected by the deadly virus, of whom over 10,000 have lost their lives. Meanwhile, the number of people whose samples are testing positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19, is steadily rising.
In India, there are over 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus people and five people have died, while 20 infected people have reportedly recovered.
It is believed, in India, we are currently in the second phase of the coronavirus spread and the next two to three weeks will be very crucial. So far, of the total reported cases, 25 cases are at that of foreigners and 181 cases are related to Indians. But all these cases are of those who are directly related to people coming from abroad, that is, foreign tourists or Indians returning from abroad and their relatives and friends, who came in contact with them.
The random testing by ICMR, in which 826 cases were investigated, all reported negative, proved that there is so far, no community spreading of corona virus, which is a matter of great relief. But this doesn’t mean in any way that in future, India will not suffer from community spreading of the virus. This is being learned from the experience of countries like China, Italy and Iran where this transition has taken the form of community spread.
The virus started from China
The human-to-human spread of the virus, known as the novel corona, began in Wuhan, China. The Chinese authorities learnt about the virus in December 2019 itself. The technical name of this virus was SARS-Cove-2, which causes a disease named COVID-19. Some people believe that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. But the scientists of this institute say that this institute being situated in Wuhan and the spread of the virus there is merely a coincidence.
However, there can be no denying that there may be some connection between the manufacture of the biological weapons by China and accidental spread of this virus. Many experts have also hinted at this apprehension.
Some people also believe that due to the strange food habits of Chinese people, this virus has reached the human body.
Some scientists believe the virus has been transferred from animals to the human body. This virus belongs to the 'SARS' family and it is more likely that it came from bats or from an animal, infected by the bats.
Whether the virus came naturally from an animal or from a laboratory, there is almost unanimity that the virus is from China. Perhaps this is the reason why US President Donald Trump is calling it ‘Chinese virus’. This is not the first time that a virus has originated in China.
In 2002, an infection called SARS, in which thousands of people around the world were infected and 773 people died, also started in China.
However, based on the information received, the incidence of this virus is decreasing in China and soon normalcy will be restored in China, but the question about the possibility of a conspiracy has been haunting the whole world. Even if we bypass or ignore the conspiracy angle or strange food habits of the Chinese peopl , the complaint of people from all over the world is that despite having the information of this virus in December, the Chinese government didn’t take adequate steps and allowed spread of this virus.
Did the Chinese government act responsibly? Did they warn the world about this? Based on the information received, it is found that no one other than the Chinese government can be held responsible for the initial spread of the coronavirus and later, letting it take the shape of a pandemic.
How the Chinese government treated the doctor, who raised an alarm about this virus for the first time, who eventually died, is no secret.
Spread of Coronavirus to Italy and Iran
This infection has spread to 158 countries throughout the world, but Italy and Iran have been the worst hit. While the total number of people infected by virus in the Italy is 41,035 and the number of deaths is 3,405, the country alone has the highest number of deaths and has even surpassed China. The third highest number of deaths was recorded in Iran.
According to a report, China's 'One Belt One Road' (OBOR), ie Belt Road Project, is a major contributor to the spread of this infection in Italy and Iran. Despite being so far away from China, the cause of the outbreak of the coronavirus in these two countries can be easily explained by OBOR linkages.
China has been aggressively pursuing this project for some time to advance its strategic and economic interests. Italy and Iran are two countries that are major stakeholders in this project. Italy has opened its infrastructure to transport, and even four major ports, to Chinese investment.
Lombardy and Tuscany are the two regions with the highest Chinese investment. The first case in Italy was reported on 21 February.
Iran which has been under severe US economic sanctions for a long time, started encouraging Chinese investment, and in 2019, they joined the OBOR initiative for construction of 2 thousand-mile long rail tracks crossing western China to Tehran, and to Turkey in Europe.
In addition, the Railway Engineering Corporation of China is laying a $-2.7 billion high-speed railway line out of Qom. Along with this, Chinese technicians are also renovating the nuclear power plant in Iran.
Iran's health experts believe this infection spread to Qom, either from Chinese workers or businessmen coming from China. This clearly reveals that both Italy and Iran had received first coronavirus infection from China only. India has said a ‘big no’ to OBOR right from the very beginning.
China has been capturing the world's markets for a long time by adopting tactics like dumping, export subsidies and a variety of other tricks. In such a situation, manufacturing declined not only in India, but even in large developed countries like the US and Europe and many other countries around the world, and they also started facing payment crisis.
Unemployment, especially youth unemployment has increased globally. Today, when the import of goods from China is not possible due to the lockdown there, manufacturing all around the world is hard hit. The havoc of coronavirus on the one hand and the economic crisis on the other, have been forcing the countries of the world to wonder whether China can remain in the centre stage of globalisation in times to come.
Countries around the world may redefine their relationship with China and may try to reconstruct their industries, which had been hit by the Chinese products and services. Latest example is Rs3000 crore plan of the Indian government to revive the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API), that is, pharmaceutical industries’ raw materials.
The Chinese government has also gotten active to minimise its infamy. The world will have to decide what will be the nature of further economic activities.
(The writer is an associate professor of economics in Delhi University. Views expressed are personal)