Dr Bruce Aylward, leader of the World Health Organization (WHO) team that visited China in February, is busy these days sharing tips with health officials worldwide about the steps China has taken to contain the deadly Covid-19 outbreak.
He told his counterparts that China’s experience can be copied, but it will require “speed, money, imagination and political courage".
What Aylward may need to appreciate is that what has been done in China to counteract the virus is hard to replicate elsewhere.
China's history and culture have played a significant part in the country's fight against the virus spread.
It is easy to encourage people to wash hands and wear masks, but for a countrywide lock-down, speed, money, imagination and political courage are far from enough.
Central governments will need to take unified actions, centralising all possible resources in response to a national health crisis at short notice.
Imagine two new makeshift hospitals with 2600 beds built in 10 days, stadiums and conference halls turned into mobile cabin hospitals in 24 hours, 10% of the country’s medical resources mobilised within days to rescue Wuhan, the epicentre, along with extreme precautionary measures such as forcing people to stay home, their daily necessities collectively supplied by volunteers.
Social workers have fanned out, going door to door to screen households, checking the whereabouts of residents and seeing if they have avoided public crowding.
Testing for Covid-19 is free in China and the government will pick up medical bills when insurance dries up.
"I have never seen, in my life, this kind of mobilisation," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
However China, the world's second-largest economy, cannot afford a prolonged battle with the virus at the cost of freezing economic activities.
This year is the last in the country’s 13th five-year economic plan, and China has outlined many milestones to achieve before 2021.
The country had to do everything it could to quickly bring the virus under control in order to live up to its economic targets — and those for energy in particular.
These ambitious targets include: discovering 3 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves; increasing gas supply capacity to 204 billion cubic metres; building 40,000 kilometres of gas pipelines; building underground gas storage capacity to total 14.8 Bcm; discovering 1 trillion cubic metres of shale gas reserves and 420 Bcm of coalbed methane reserves; raising shale gas production capacity to reach 30 Bcm; and cutting emissions of sulphur, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants by at least 15% from 2015 levels.
The number of daily confirmed Covid-19 cases in China is tapering off, to eight on Thursday from a peak of more than 2000, leading the country to close 16 mobile hospitals with 13,467 beds in Wuhan.
The country has restarted its economic engines in phases. National oil companies, led by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), chartered buses, trains, cruise ships and planes to provide home-to-field and home-to-yard services to bring staff back to work.
CNPC claimed that close to 100% of its production units have resumed operation, and yard workers are working around the clock in shifts to make up for the lost time.
However, Chinese energy companies have started to worry about the equipment supply delays from overseas vendors as the epidemic begins to run rampant across the world.
The virus has now spread to more than 100 countries, with more than 54,000 confirmed cases outside China, according to the WHO.
The priority in China has started to shift from curbing domestic infections to the possibility of imported cases.
China prides itself on having a robust, well-oiled system that can make seemingly impossible missions possible.
For the Chinese government, its ability to marshal resources quickly to where they are needed most — with President Xi Jinping leading what he calls the people’s war against the outbreak – has been the key to its success so far in battling the deadly Covid-19.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)