China has had something of a mixed press for its handling of the new coronavirus outbreak that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has spread to the rest of the country and the world. It has been heavily criticised for its initial paralysis and lack of transparency about the severity of the situation after the discovery of the highly infectious virus in December that allowed it to spread to far corners of the vast country and to at least 28 other countries and territories. On the other hand, the world has also marvelled at China’s ability, through its concentration of power, to act strongly – locking down entire cities and provinces involving tens of millions of people, building two hospitals within days, enforcing stringent quarantine and control measures and mobilising teams of medical workers from other parts of the country to go to Wuhan where the epidemic is most severe.
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It looks like the draconian measures – to some, bordering on infringing on the rights of individuals – are having some impact. Although it is early days yet, the continued spread to the rest of the country and the world after the measures kicked in appears to be slowing so that many of the new cases and most of the deaths have occurred within Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the epicentre. This week, reports of the situation outside Hubei showed the number of daily new cases in the rest of China fell from 890 on Feb 3 to 377 on Feb 11.