Covid-19 calls for concerted action

Covid-19 calls for concerted action

Covid-19 is now officially a pandemic. The World Health Organisation’s re-designation of the disease from a ‘global health emergency’ to a ‘pandemic’ is significant as it signals the fact that Covid-19 has now spread worldwide. From its origins in Wuhan in China, the deadly coronavirus has swept through at least 114 countries, afflicting around 1.2 lakh people and causing some 4,000 fatalities so far. WHO officials have pointed out that over the past fortnight, the number of Covid-19 cases outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled. China continues to lead with the highest number of cases and fatalities, but the situation in countries like Italy, Iran and South Korea is no less worrying. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indeed expressed fear that as much as 60-70% of the country’s population could be affected by the virus in the next four months. Thus, the Covid-19 pandemic signals a global challenge that deserves the world’s serious attention and a coordinated response.

WHO has also drawn attention to the “alarming levels of inaction” over the pandemic on the part of several countries. This is worrying as those governments’ inaction is jeopardising the lives of their own people and of the rest of the world. WHO has not named these laggards, but it is not hard to identify them. The US, for instance, did not update its surveillance regimes and has been testing only those who are fully symptomatic. According to the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just 1,707 people had been tested in America for Covid-19 as of March 8, making the US the country with the lowest coronavirus testing rate among developed countries.

It is not the lack of financial or other resources but the absence of political will and low commitment to public health issues that is to blame for such inaction in the global battle against coronavirus. Contrary to what President Donald Trump believes, a “miracle” will not protect us from it. Nor will Covid-19 “disappear” on its own. It requires the concerted action of the world, and therefore of world leaders. By describing the coronavirus as a “foreign virus,” Trump is seeking to absolve his administration of the responsibility of preventing Covid-19 from spreading in the US and, from there, elsewhere. This is in contrast to the way the US, during the Obama administration, handled its own part as well as coordinated with other nations during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014. The international community must draw lessons from that episode and from China’s fight against coronavirus, both from its blunders and best practices. World leaders cannot afford to twiddle their thumbs waiting for a “miracle” to happen. 

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