China’s Chernobyl? The coronavirus outbreak leads to a loaded metaphor.

The Washington Post
Date: Feb. 12, 2020
By: Ishaan Tharoor 

A masked woman in a plastic raincoat in Beijing on Feb. 11. (Andy Wong/AP)

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A masked woman in a plastic raincoat in Beijing on Feb. 11. (Andy Wong/AP)

The official death toll from the coronavirus outbreak surpassed 1,100 on Tuesday. Chinese authorities have intensified the draconian lockdown on the epicenter of the crisis, the central Chinese city of Wuhan, as well as quarantines throughout the rest of the country. The precautions in place are understandable: Ahead of a World Health Organization expert meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, a leading Hong Kong epidemiologist warned that, if left unchecked, the current strain of the virus (now branded covid-19) could infect up to 60 percent of the global population.

But for Chinese President Xi Jinping, the public health emergency is only the tip of the crisis. Before appearing in front of cameras on Monday at a Beijing clinic, Xi had been conspicuously absent, opting instead to let his deputies become the public face of the government response. According to sources cited by Reuters, Xi is panicked by the economic impact of the government’s efforts to contain the virus. China’s growth is already at its slowest in almost three decades; the outbreak has led to myriad factories and businesses temporarily shutting down, China’s real estate market taking a nose-dive and major global supply chains being disrupted.    [FULL  STORY]