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False Positives Adventures in Technology, SciFi and Culture from Toronto

Thursday, April 24, 2003

SARS : China's Chernobyl?

Excellent opinion piece in the Economist on the affects of China's handling of the SARS crisis.
Were SARS, instead of being a natural virus, a man-made weapon of mass destruction, there would be a framework for dealing with it.
Nuclear and chemical weapons are subject to stringent inspection regimes. Despite the extra difficulties, there is a good case for beefing up rules for tracking diseases. Air travel links any city on earth with every other city in 24 hours or so, so there are clear global interests at stake. Had it acted more responsibly, China could perhaps have nipped SARS in the bud, running the risk of some economic pain in the short term, but saving itself from far greater damage later on. Membership of the WHO ought to carry duties as well as benefits. Members could perhaps be required to pledge that WHO scientists be given an absolute right of access to their hospitals and health ministries at the first sign of trouble.

This sort of intrusion would doubtless be difficult for a government as secretive as China's to accept. But learning to live with that kind of affront is part and parcel of what being a full and responsible member of the international community entails. In its belated and still only partial acceptance of its responsibilities, perhaps China is
starting to understand this, and to become a more normal country.

From Flying chair


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