Mar 16, 2020
The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, USA Today, and countless others have used the word “draconian” to describe China’s response to the coronavirus. We are supposed to think China was very harsh.
Once the Chinese government decided the coronavirus was a real threat, it shut down transport in and out of Wuhan, the city where the virus emerged. It banned private cars from the streets and mandated that people stay home. The city’s residents had to order food online, and it was delivered to their doors, so that people would not each try to go shopping on their own.
Everyone’s temperature was regularly taken, on the street or by volunteers going door-to-door. Anyone found to have a fever was sent to a fever clinic, where they were tested for many illnesses including the new coronavirus. If they had the new disease, they were not allowed to go home—where they would probably infect their family—but were quarantined in a hotel, and if they had severe symptoms, taken to a facility for treatment.
The Chinese government also implemented a widespread program to trace the movements of people who had the virus, to determine who else they might have infected, and test them for the illness.
Most of these measures were eventually enforced across a huge swath of China, shutting down business and schools, but effectively limiting the spread of the disease.
In contrast to this “draconian” response, the U.S. has done nothing organized. We are on our own to find food and toilet paper, take care of kids sent home from school, fight our boss for sick days, and try to get tested and treated—if we can find anyone with a test to give us!
China’s government is certainly repressive, and serves its capitalists just like the government here. But which is really more draconian? This country’s disorganized, profit-first response, or China’s organized attempt to mitigate the spread of this deadly disease?