The cruise industry has taken a hefty blow amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. With much of the spotlight on growing infections on Diamond Princess – the U.K.-registered, U.S.-owned, and Japan-departed ocean liner – rarely any news report of Costa Serena entered the public eye.
The Costa Serena is an Italian-operated cruise ship that was also forced to dock. Its 4,800 crew and passengers all avoided the nightmare experience of ship-grounded quarantine for one reason: the ship docked in Tianjin, China.
On the Costa Serena, officials followed strict orders to contain the spread of the virus. Within 24 hours, everyone on the ship was tested, landed, and put under quarantine in separate hotel rooms.
These two cruise ships are microcosms of multi-national emergency public health management. When more than one nation is involved, responsibility-taking becomes a politically sensitive and complex issue.
With COVID-19 spreading closer and closer to a global pandemic, the responsibility to protect fellow humans rests upon every nation. On a unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral level, all countries must act.
Although China’s infection rate is starting to decline, South Korea, Italy, and Iran are witnessing a drastic rise in confirmed cases. The word “pandemic” appears in almost all newspaper headlines, and the CDC is warning U.S. citizens to be prepared for the crisis.
#UPDATE The WHO chief warned that if countries did not quickly mobilise to fight the spread of the virus, "this outbreak could go in any direction. It could even be messy" https://t.co/4lRFjphQkP pic.twitter.com/71kSy2whL5
— AFP news agency (@AFP) February 21, 2020
The worldwide spread is no longer a matter of likelihood, but of when and how severe. It is, therefore, extremely urgent for all countries to take responsive actions, strengthen public health measures, and learn from China’s mistakes and successes.
On a unilateral level, all countries need to be transparent and honest with their people. The hard lessons from Wuhan and the failed quarantine on the Diamond Princess show that information control makes the situation worse, not better. Countries must enhance information sharing.
Central, regional, and local governments must cooperate timely and truthfully so that resources can be mobilized, businesses and organizations can react and plan, and civil society can address individual health care needs.
Cooperation With China
On a bilateral level, all countries must cooperate with China, and China must support the world.
As Chinese businesses start to resume work and travel restrictions loosen, the world is likely to see the opposite flow of material and personnel in the coming weeks, namely from China to other countries. This is both a help and a challenge for containing the virus.
The key lies in bilateral trust. To ensure that the world is in the best position to handle this crisis, China must welcome others’ assistance, and countries under emergency conditions must seek guidance from China’s experience.
WHO and NGOs
On a multilateral level, all countries must work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and NGOs. While the WHO manages samples and shares knowledge worldwide, major NGOs – like Oxfam International, Doctors Without Border, and World Vision – can work at community levels to prevent false information and improve preparedness.
The outbreak is hugely demanding for weaker economies. NGOs serve as the best alternative for providing support and filling the gap. Countries in Africa particularly must think multilaterally and start defining their protocols now.
China’s lockdown-and-standstill approach is indeed extreme and impossible for many countries to imitate, yet all can learn from and reflect upon the Chinese actions.
As we face the hard exam of COVID-19, we benefit from knowing China’s attempted answers. When the world is fighting as a whole, everyone feels more secure.
If the COVID-19 is humans’ common fear, then all nations have common interests in combating it collectively. Let us take responsibility, face the battle with integrity, and cooperate at all levels. A global pandemic can be ended when humanity acts in a united front.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.