WION Edit: Is Coronavirus a Belt and Road pandemic?

Delhi Feb 04, 2020, 02.59 PM(IST) Written By: WION

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

China failed to contain the outbreak and countries around the world are facing the consequences.

The first cases of the Wuhan Coronavirus were reported almost two months ago. Now, there are more than 17 thousand patients. At first, China denied it all, but now we could be staring at a pandemic.

China failed to contain the outbreak and countries around the world are facing the consequences.

During the SARS outbreak, China was not as well connected with the world as it is today, and therefore, this disease could spread far too quickly.

Pakistan does not have a confirmed case of the coronavirus yet, but people are afraid because the disease has spread to the neighbourhood.

Last Thursday, a Pakistani newspaper reported that Chinese projects were halted in South Punjab - 71 Chinese engineers, alongside local security personnel, were put through a screening.

Something similar happened at a train project in Lahore - the Chinese workers there were asked to remain in their compounds for three days. Reports say that they were tested for coronavirus. Pakistan cannot do much beyond this. 

WATCH: Wuhan Virus, Is this a belt and road Pandemic?

Chinese labourers are in all countries which are members of the Belt and Road Project (BRI), and these countries cannot bar them from the projects. 

Whenever China takes up a Belt and Road assignment - it supplies everything - from raw materials to the workers. Chinese companies lead BRI projects.

Reports say that by 2018, sixty thousand Chinese expats were working in Pakistan. More than 400 Chinese companies are involved in Pakistani projects alone.

And Wuhan is at the centre of china's mega infrastructure push, serving as a key transport and trade hub. Wuhan is home to factories and operations of more than half of the fortune 500 corporations.

It is also the epicentre of the coronavirus and there is a strong chance that people travelling in and out of Wuhan may carry the virus. In the last three weeks alone, the number of cases has gone up from 50 to now more than 17 thousand.

The Wuhan virus has killed over 450 people so far. models created by experts suggest that this coronavirus can infect as many as 100 thousand people or even more.

Now is the time to act and if world leaders are serious about containing this outbreak, they must stop Chinese workers from returning to their offices.

Malaysia is already doing it. The Malaysian government has imposed a temporary travel ban, citizens from Wuhan and Hubei are not allowed to come to Malaysia for now. Other Belt and Road nations must follow suit.

Furthermore, for the future, firm regulation must be put in place to tackle risks associated with BRI. 

The Belt and Road initiative must be put under a global regulatory mechanism, something that is in the hands of BRI nations as a whole, and not controlled by China. Because connectivity facilitates the spread of disease too. The coronavirus outbreak is a wake-up call for the world.

(Disclaimer: WION Edit is the channel's take on the big events of the world)