If a country with a population of almost 1.4bn, where unquestioned discipline is imposed, struggles to contain coronavirus, a virus infectious even during incubation, how would the rest of the world cope?
China has levels of control Western societies would reject, yet it is struggling to isolate the disease. President Xi Jinping acknowledged as much on Saturday, when he conceded that China was facing a “grave situation”.
The virus, believed to have originated in a seafood market, in Wuhan, illegally selling wildlife, has spread to mega cities Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the US, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, and Canada. Its containment is by no means certain.
Health authorities face a huge task, not all of them related to a new disease. In this country, they face a culture of recklessness around biosecurity.
Just this weekend, an imported sable was found in Cork with a virus associated with rabies.
The Department of Agriculture said the mammal had been imported as a pet this month, and has been destroyed. The department took the issue so seriously that gatherings of dogs, cats, or ferrets — including hunting, sales or fairs — have been prohibited in an 8km exclusion zone.
It is hard to understand, in a country struggling with the impact of invasive species, why such an import might be legal.
It is even more difficult to understand the indifference to vital biosecurity of such foolish indulgence.