South Asian Insider
Opinion and Editorial
Why The Giant America Appears Helpless Against Coronavirus
In a country with the world’s finest healthcare system and renowned epidemiologists, these crucial early weeks were literally squandered, writes
When a new virus first hit the Chinese city of Wuhan, the nation’s authorities did not have the luxury of ‘advance notice’. In the crucial early days of what was going to become one of the deadliest global pandemics in history – COVID-19 – the Chinese government obfuscated and censored important information, which did nothing to halt the contagion of this invisible enemy. It is now, months after the first case was officially reported,that the COVID-19 cases have completely dwindled down in China after an unparalleled, draconian yet systematic “lockdown” of millions of its citizens. The Chinese lockdown was accompanied by measures like forcibly removing people exposed to or infected with the coronavirus and putting them into isolation centres, shutting down public transportation, high–tech surveillance that helped ensure compliance with mass quarantines, etc.
The United States, on the other hand, had the luxury of ‘time’ to prepare for this. Yet, in a country with the world’s finest healthcare system and renowned epidemiologists, these crucial early weeks were literally squandered. Whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning on December 31, 2019, the Trump administration on January 31 of this year suspended entry into the United States for only the foreign nationals who had travelled to China in the past 14 days, excluding the immediate family members of American citizens or permanent residents. If the first signsof this virus surfaced in November 2019, what about the myriads of people who travelled from China to the United States until January 31? And how many of those were carriers of the virus who inadvertently transmitted it to tens of thousands others? The first novel Coronavirus case in the US surfaced on January 21, 2020. Fast forward to the present: As of April 2, the American state of New York alone has more COVID-19 patients than the entire country of China! With 2,45,000+ cases and counting, America is now the hub.And all of this is albeit the fact that the US population is one fourth that of China! What exactly is causing the number of cases to rapidly proliferate even though President Donald Trump has pumped in
Trillions of dollars to tackle this? Well, the reason behind the spread is simple: Lack of complete lockdown.
The nature of this deadly virus is such that social distancing is the only way to prevent its transmission. Countries like India, Italy, Spain and Germany have locked down entire regions or the country as a whole, following suit with China. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, imposed a mandatory 21-day lockdown for its 1.35 billion people, the largest cordon sanitaire in history!
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is the only magic drug available in the market right now, especially when a medical remedy is beyond the horizon. So what has stopped the Trump administration so far from a prophylactic nationwide lockdown? Well, it turns out that Trump only shares partial blame for this. Initially, Trump did not want the fear of virus’ spread to affect the US economy negatively, especially in view of the upcoming Presidential elections later this year. Even after the US had 500 confirmed cases, he kept downplaying the virus threat and reassuring Americans of the extreme preparedness of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce to deal with it.Trump was banking on what he calls the “greatness” of America’s mighty healthcare system to fight the virus. Trump believed he could address this by ordering more ventilators, paying Americans for the lost income, pumping in more money into the economy, etc. Little was he possibly aware that the only cure available was a “complete lockdown”- a remedy even the poorest of the nations could afford. Those measures he took could only complement a mandatory lockdown and not substitute it. Trump even went on to state that America would be “open for business” by Easter, April 12. Further astonishing was the fact that he declaredthat up to 240,000 Americans would eventually succumb to this evil!
(Contd on page 22)
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