The first case of COVID-19 happened in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province of China on November 17, 2019. Since then one to five cases came up every day and by December 31, 2019, the numbers cases went up to 266 in Hubei province, but a lockdown wasn’t imposed until January 23, 2020.
Even when doctor Li Wenliang tried to warn his fellow doctors about a possible outbreak of an illness similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Wuhan, he was shut down. According to BBC, Wenliang was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 on January 30, and subsequently, succumbed to it.
And now the cover-up and clampdown by the Chinese government in the early weeks of the coronavirus’s emergence is raising questions over whether China can be held legally accountable.
The former minister of education in Nigeria, Oby Ezekwesili, in an op-ed for The Washington Post, gave the opinion that China must pay for failing to manage COVID-19, which has severely injured Africa’s development prospects and worsened the conditions of the poor.
She noted that the best solution is for China to accord damages and liability compensation to Africa, adding that Africa should not suffer more because another powerful country failed to act responsibly. According to her;
Africa’s economic gains since the last global crisis have been eroded. It is time to make offending rich countries pay the poor ones a global risk burden tax for delaying their rise out of poverty. China should immediately announce a complete write-off of the more than $140 billion that its government, banks, and contractors extended to countries in Africa between 2000 and 2017.
This would provide partial compensation to African countries for the impact of coronavirus on economies in Africa. Ezekwesili also stressed that now is the time for rich and powerful countries to change approach in handling global crises which leaves the poor worse off due to its failures. The economic shock caused by the Coronavirus has hindered the opportunity Africa had to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. The African Union Commission estimates that Africa’s gross domestic product will shrink by as much as 4.5 percent, resulting in 20 million job losses.
This has dangerously hampered the possibility that Africa can generate jobs for young people and women, or reducing the number of out-of-school children with access to quality learning opportunities. Economies in Asia, Europe have announced hefty emergency stimulus packages for their people and businesses, countries while most of the African countries struggle to meet short-term food needs.
China should demonstrate world leadership by acknowledging its failure to be transparent on COVID-19. China and the rest of the Group of 20 countries should engage with the Africa Union and countries to design a reparations’ mechanism. It is time for rich economies to show that our world is capable of doing right by the poor and vulnerable. China must pay.
Read the full article on The Washington Post.