The Big Story: PLA: Xi’s Comrade against the Virus
Xi Jinping ordered the Chinese military to join the race for developing the world’s first vaccine for Covid-19. Major General Chen Wei, a top medical virologist with the Academy of Military Science, was authorised to start clinical trials last week. The Chinese scientists are working on the nine possible treatments, and Tianjin-based CanSino biologics are the frontrunners in China for developing the vaccine. Chen is credited with helping develop treatments during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak and a nasal spray to protect medical workers during the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARs) outbreak.
The PLA has also been at the forefront of the logistical supply in Hubei and surrounding provinces since January 23. More than 10,000 personnel are deployed in Hubei province since then, and their job is to control the supply of the medicines and essential commodities. The effort is primarily led by the PLA’s newly formed Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF). But despite being in the epicentre of the outbreak since the past two months, the PLA claims that not a single army personnel is infected by the virus. This seems rather absurd and highly unlikely. Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily claims that a group of 200 PLA soldiers attached with the PLA’s airborne Corp in Xiaogan city near Wuhan, and 300 personnel from the PLAN’s submarine unit in Sanya were quarantined.