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Many lessons to be learned: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2020-12-10 20:13
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Members of the first group of imported COVID-19 patients diagnosed at Suifenhe port in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province who were cured and discharged from the hospital on April 21, 2020 wave goodbye to medics. [Photo by Pan Songgang/For]

Given that its prevention and control measures have proved effective, most people may consider the virus to be no longer a big deal in China.

For almost a year, COVID-19 has taught one lesson after another, from those on the importance of a timely response to infections to those on responsible decision-making to balance individual rights and freedoms with the public good, and certainly on good statesmanship and citizenship. Prior to the latest infections found in Chengdu, Sichuan province, there were only seven high- and medium-risk areas nationwide, all in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Now there are 10, counting the newly added medium-risk communities in Chengdu, with a decision pending on the Thursday report of two domestic infections in Dongning and Suifenhe, Heilongjiang province. The Chengdu infections are cause for concern because their source remains a mystery. And that will inevitably affect the coming New Year holiday. The riddle over their source will likely make many more people rethink their holiday plans and result in the immediate cancellation of many planned trips to the tourist hot spot.

Thanks to the lessons that have been learned, the southwestern metropolis' rich medical resources and the large-scale pandemic screening underway, there can be little doubt Chengdu will emerge victorious. But as Chengdu, Dongning, and the other high- and medium-risk areas go all out to contain the spread of the virus, we should all take to heart the critical message these new infections keep shouting to us: It is not time to relax yet.

The public here has been amazingly cooperative with the pandemic response of local governments. The "systemic advantages" have been a key factor in effectively combating the virus, but it is the cooperation and participation of residents that have leveraged those advantages to the full.

This is particularly impressive when experts such as Dr Anthony Fauci in the United States have appealed to little avail for both politicians and members of the public to believe COVID-19 is "real", and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tearily entreated her compatriots to practice self-discipline to prevent a further spike in infections.

But there is something to learn from the pandemic's latest lesson in Chengdu. What happened to one woman who was one of the people infected, exposed a stunning lack of respect for individual privacy and broader rights.

Because she reported that she had visited multiple public entertainment venues before being diagnosed, she got trolled, with her personal information dug out and posted on the internet.

This, along with the constant requests for personal information since the onset of the pandemic and the use of facial recognition technologies, has triggered much debate about the right to privacy.

Pandemic control is imperative. Yet people's right to privacy should not be sacrificed in the name of pandemic control. There are always bottom lines to be observed.

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