China knew SARS and the 2004 outbreak of avian flu in its pigs, made mistakes in dealing with both, and is trying to make good on those in its reaction to the current outbreak of swine flu. Has it overreacted?
The World Health Organization has criticized Beijing for its quarantining — would forced detention and deportation be a more accurate description? — of groups from Mexico, Canada and other countries identified as being possible carriers of the virus despite a lack of any symptoms.
On Wednesday, more than 100 Mexican nationals, none of whom had displayed any symptoms of the virus and who were being quarantined at hospitals and hotels in China, were returned home on a chartered government plane.
China also lifted a preventive quarantine on a group of visiting Canadian students, being kept in a Changchun hotel, though, again, none of the students displayed any symptoms of the virus. The decision to release the students came after Canada had put on the diplomatic squeeze.
According to the WHO’s latest H1N1 flu situation report (see map below), Hong Kong has had one confirmed case (out of 1,893 worldwide) and no deaths; the mainland, none on either count.
Yet Beijing has has defended its measures, saying an outbreak in the densely populated nation could be catastrophic. As if to prove the point, 119 Chinese nationals stranded in Mexico returned to Shanghai on Wednesday and, though all are healthy, they have all been put in preventive quarantine for a week.
Authorities in the U.S. and Europe wouldn’t, at this point in the pandemic scare, have imposed involuntary quarantines to combat the virus. Has Beijing been prudent or discriminatory?