“Bludgeoned by Years of Subservience to Their Masters in Beijing”

(p. C2) The salient fact that we have learned about Chinese administrative and managerial practices from this latest outbreak is not that China is capable of impressive infrastructure projects but that its vaunted system of top-down decision-making, state control and central planning is directly responsible in large part for the virulence, intensity and rapid spread of the disease that has already claimed more than 1,300 Chinese lives.

According to reports from Wuhan in this and other news outlets, one of the principal reasons that the virus spread so quickly and infected so many was because officials in Wuhan, bludgeoned by years of subservience to their masters in Beijing, were simply terrified of taking any initiative. Zhou Xianwang, Wuhan’s mayor, told reporters that he didn’t take measures to deal with the epidemic earlier because he needed authorization from his political bosses.

For the full commentary, see:

Gerard Baker. “China’s Crisis Exposes a Badly Flawed Model.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, February 15, 2020): C2.

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated Feb. 14, 2020, and has the title “THE NEW NEW WORLD; A Loyal Chinese Critic Vanishes, in a Blow to the Nation’s Future.”)

Chinese Doctors Wear Adult Diapers to Avoid Taking Off Their One-Per-Day One-Piece Protective Suit

(p. A1) The coronavirus outbreak has exposed the jarring absence in China of a vibrant civil society — the civic associations like business groups, nonprofit organizations, charities and churches that bring people together without involving the government.

. . .

(p. A10) “The traditional management mechanism of ‘big government’ is no longer efficient, and is even failing,” Duan Zhanjiang, a management consultant, wrote in an article about managing the epidemic. “The government is very busy but not effective.

. . .

The Communist Party has never liked or trusted civil society. It is suspicious of any organization that could potentially pose challenge to its rule, including big private enterprises. It has cracked down on nongovernment organizations like rights groups and charities as well as churches and mosques. The party wants nothing to stand between its government and China’s 1.4 billion people.

Big Chinese corporations and wealthy individuals have been donating, many generously. But they also try to keep low profiles for fear of offending a government that is eager to take credit for any success and quick to suspect outside groups of challenging it.

Those gaps are evident on the front lines of the outbreak, where workers have lacked the proper equipment to keep themselves safe. Doctors and nurses wear disposable raincoats instead of protective gowns. They wear ordinary, and inadequate, surgical masks while conducting dangerous throat swab tests. They wear adult diapers because, once they take off their one-piece protective suits, the suits will have to be thrown away. They get only one per day.

For the full commentary, see:

Li Yuan. “THE NEW NEW WORLD; China Blocks Ally in Virus Fight: Its Own People.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 19, 2020): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 5, 2020, and has the same title “THE NEW NEW WORLD; In Coronavirus Fight, China Sidelines an Ally: Its Own People.”)

“Rage and Despair” Outpace Chinese Communists’ “Army of Censors”

(p. A9) HONG KONG — Under normal circumstances, Patrick Wu, a college student from Anhui Province in China’s east, knows better than to talk to his parents about politics.

Mr. Wu, a senior at a university in Beijing, is a self-described skeptic of the Chinese government. His parents are local government officials.

But recent months have been anything but normal. The coronavirus outbreak, and its political implications, have been all that Mr. Wu, 21, thinks about.

. . .

“Things just got out of control. You could see people dying at home,” Mr. Wu said. “I just felt like more people should know about this, and I should open myself to more conversations about this — at least with my parents, who I can trust.”

His parents, from the start, resisted. “Their first reaction was shock and rejection: ‘How could this happen in Wuhan? It must be fake,’” Mr. Wu recalled.

After they were persuaded that the outbreak was genuine, they rejected that Chinese officials had at first covered it up and questioned how it could have exploded so quickly.

Were people who eat wild animals to blame, they asked after the virus was linked to a Wuhan market that sells wildlife. Or maybe the United States planted the virus, his parents said, considering an unfounded conspiracy theory peddled by a top Chinese government spokesman.

“I think the gap in information is too big, and sometimes I alone can’t fill it,” Mr. Wu said.

Slowly, though, he felt his mother relenting. The sheer number of online posts about the virus outpaced even the government’s army of censors. Rage and despair found their way into his parents’ social media feeds, and when a whistle-blower doctor, Li Wenliang, died of the coronavirus, prompting an online revolt against censorship, it was Mr. Wu’s mother who alerted him to the news.

For the full story, see:

Vivian Wang. “INSIDE THE OUTBREAK; Stuck With His Parents and Sparring Over Politics.” The New York Times (Wednesday, April 1, 2020): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 31, 2020, and has the title “INSIDE THE OUTBREAK; Quarreling in Quarantine and Bridging a Generational Divide.”)

“Two Promising Approaches” for Drugs to Reduce Severe Cases of Covid-19

(p. A19) Americans would have the confidence to return to work, even if the virus is still circulating in the fall, if they knew that a robust screening system is in place to identify and arrest new outbreaks and medication can significantly reduce the chance of becoming severely ill. Kevin Warsh, a former Federal Reserve governor, estimates that such a drug could restore at least $1 trillion in economic activity.

. . .  There are two promising approaches, and both could be available soon if government and private industry do things right.  . . .

One approach involves antiviral drugs that target the virus and block its replication. Think of medicines for treating influenza, HIV or cold sores. The drugs work by blocking the mechanisms that viruses use to replicate.  . . .

The other approach involves antibody drugs, which mimic the function of immune cells. Antibody drugs can be used to fight an infection and to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19. These medicines may be the best chance for a meaningful near-term success.

Antibody drugs are based on the same scientific principles that make “convalescent plasma” one interim tactic for treating the sickest Covid-19 patients. Doctors are taking blood plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and infusing it into those who are critically ill. The plasma is laden with antibodies, and the approach shows some promise. The constraint: There isn’t enough plasma from recovered patients to go around.

For the full commentary, see:

Scott Gottlieb. “Bet Big on Treatments for Coronavirus; Antivirals and antibody therapies are showing promise. The FDA needs to step up its pace.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 6, 2020): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 5, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

In Covid-19 Lockdown, Cars Allow a Private Escape from Crowded Noisy Homes

(p. D6) Public spaces are hard to safely navigate, or totally off-limits and, as a result, I haven’t felt this strongly about my car since I was 16 — not just grateful, but deeply attached. Not just attached, but somehow amalgamated.

Every car is a getaway, even when it’s parked.

In my neighborhood, where so many people live in multigenerational homes, parked cars now double as quiet meeting spaces, meditation rooms, listening stations, nap pods, whatever extra spaces we need.

We sip coffee, fight loudly and make out in our cars. We eat snacks and take important phone calls and watch TikTok videos and put the seats way back and just breathe.

I haven’t seen my brother, who lives 15 minutes away from me, in weeks. He uses his tiny car as an office. Never mind that the floor is covered in Cheerios, and the windows are dotted with peeling stickers.

Week Three of lockdown, and it’s a privilege if you can work safely, in isolation, if you can escape momentarily into your car. Even if — especially if — you have nowhere else to go but home.

For the full commentary, see:

Tejal Rao. “Car Culture Has a New Meaning.” The New York Times (Wednesday, April 1, 2020): D6.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 31, 2020, and has the title “Dining and Driving on the Empty Freeways of Los Angeles.”)

Stop Shaming Those Who Slow Spread of Covid-19 by Wearing Face Masks

The government has been saying that we shouldn’t wear face masks because they won’t do us any good AND we shouldn’t wear face masks because they WILL do good for health professionals. Tucker Carlson slam-dunked this issue at the end of his show on Monday, March 30th. Maybe the widespread voluntary wearing of masks is part of the reason Japan and South Korea have been less affected by covid-19 than the experts expected. It is in our interest to protect our health professionals by sending scarce masks their way. But at the same time, we should allow the incentives (surge-pricing) that will produce a lot more masks for our health professionals and for us too. And we should not shame those in the general population who choose to wear masks.

Open Offices Speed Spread of Covid-19

(p. B6) After years of squeezing ever more workers into tighter office spaces, companies are realizing how efficiently the modern workspace can spread diseases like the coronavirus.

Cubicles and private offices have made way for open floors, where a sneeze or cough can circulate uninterrupted.  . . .

Between 2018 and 2019, the average office space per seat in North America declined by 14.3% to 195.6 square feet, according to brokerage firm JLL’s 2020 Occupancy Benchmarking Report.

Many companies also have abolished assigned seating, rotating workers through the office. That means workers in many offices are now more likely to touch surfaces contaminated by others.

. . .

In a study of more than 1,800 Swedish office workers that was published in 2014, a group of researchers from Stockholm University found that open-plan offices lead to more sick leaves. Among the possible explanations is that these offices can be more stressful, and risk of infection may be greater. The study also found that offices without assigned desks lead to more extended sick leaves, but only among men.

For the full story, see:

Konrad Putzier. “Open Offices Spur Virus Worries.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, MARCH 11, 2020): B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 10, 2020, and has the title “Your Open-Floor Office Could Help Spread Coronavirus.”)

Under Cover of Coronavirus Chaos, Chinese Communists Arrest Hong Kong Defender of Free Speech

(p. A12) HONG KONG — A Hong Kong media tycoon known for his ardent opposition to China was arrested on Friday [Feb. 28, 2020] over his role in a pro-democracy protest last year, the police said, dealing another blow to the city’s independent media.

The tycoon, Jimmy Lai, a rare figure among Hong Kong’s elite for his willingness to take on Beijing, owns Next Media Group, which publishes a popular pro-democracy newspaper and website called Apple Daily. His arrest comes as the city has been dealing with the twin shocks of the protest movement and now the coronavirus outbreak.

His singular status as a prominent businessman in Hong Kong who openly supports the democracy movement and antigovernment protests has made him a frequent target of Beijing-backed elements.

. . .

The arrests were made the same week as a court in China sentenced a Hong Kong bookseller, Gui Minhai, to 10 years in prison. Mr. Gui sold gossipy books about China’s leaders and disappeared mysteriously in Thailand in 2015 and later emerged as a target of China’s effort to quell dissent.

For the full story, see:

Elaine Yu. “Media Baron Is Arrested Over Protests In Hong Kong.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A12.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 28, 2020, and has the title “Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong Media Baron, Is Arrested Over Role in Protests.”)

Chinese Communist “Tradition” of Local Officials Lying to Please Beijing Central Planners

(p. A27) There is a tradition in China (and likely much of the world) for local authorities not to report bad news to their superiors. During the Great Leap Forward, local officials reported exaggerated harvest yields even as millions were starving. More recently, officials in Henan Province denied there was an epidemic of AIDS spread through unsanitary blood collection practices.

For the full commentary, see:

Elisabeth Rosenthal. “Why Is Data on Coronavirus So Limited?” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A27.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 28, 2020, and has the title “Sanders Is Stirring Cold War Angst. Young Voters Say, So What?.”)

Government Ban on Motorbikes and Rickshaws Spreads Coronavirus in Nigeria

(p. A10) “I feel scared,” said Karo Otitifore, an elementary schoolteacher waiting at a bus stop in Yaba, the Lagos suburb where the Italian patient was being treated. “I try to sit tight, squeeze my whole body so that I won’t have to have too much body contact with people.”

. . .

He waited at a crowded bus stop for a bus crammed with passengers. A recent ban — unrelated to coronavirus — on the city’s fleet of motorcycle taxis and auto-rickshaws meant that many Lagosians are in even closer contact than usual, raising the risk of exposure should the virus spread.

For the full story, see:

Ruth Maclean and Abdi Latif Dahir. “First Confirmed Diagnosis In Nigeria Adds Pressure On a Weak Health System.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 29, 2020, and has the title “Nigeria Responds to First Coronavirus Case in Sub-Saharan Africa.”)

Commuters Riot after Lagos Governor Bans Motorbikes and Rickshaws

LAGOS — It is dark when Abisoye Adeniyi leaves home on the packed Lagos mainland, weaving through cars and minibuses. She reaches her bus stop as the sun rises.

The 23-year-old Nigerian lawyer used to hop on a motorbike – known locally as an okada – for a quick ride to the bus that carries her from the mainland, where most of Lagos’s 20 million residents live, to work in the island business district.

Since the bikes, along with motorized yellow rickshaws called kekes, became illegal in most of the city on Feb. 1 [2020], Adeniyi has added a 30-minute walk to her journey – stretching the commute to nearly two hours.

“It has not been easy at all,” she said.

Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu outlawed the loosely regulated motorbikes and rickshaws, citing safety and security concerns.

Gridlock in the megacity, whose traffic jams were already ubiquitous, has intensified to the point that riots with burning tyres broke out and #LagosIsWalking trended on Twitter showcasing residents with ruined shoes.

For the full story, see:

Reuters. “Burning Tires and Sore Feet: Lagos Bristles Under Bike Ban.” The New York Times (Monday, February 17, 2020). Online at: https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/02/17/technology/17reuters-nigeria-transportation-ban.html?searchResultPosition=2

(Note: bracketed year added.)