The first thing I will say without hesitation is that I am not an expert in epidemiology, nor I am even studying the subject. I do my best to try not to make statements or argue about topics that I have almost no knowledge on. I believe that if more people acted in such a way we would significantly reduce our sluggishness in responding to a crisis like this by minimizing the spread of misinformation. That said, I do believe there is a lot to be said about the political management of this crisis. Because as sickening as it is, politicians never waste an opportunity for self-promotion.
Secondly, as logical and/or plausible as some conspiracy theories might seem in the minds of a few people, it is very irresponsible to assert such claims without adequate evidence. Once the world overcomes this crisis, we will have plenty of time to collect the facts and analyse the data with more scrutiny. Until then, leaders must coordinate between each other and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of citizens, not of unproductive businesses and of corporations that have been addicted to repurchasing their own shares.
While Europe has been identified as the new epicentre of the pandemic, many things related to global affairs focus on what happens in two countries: the United States and China. The leadership in both countries, in different manners and with different consequences, have committed grave mistakes in the handling of the crisis.
As I am writing this, the US has already surpassed China to lead the world in the number of confirmed cases, reaching the 100,000 mark. The gravest mistake made by American authorities, from Donald Trump to local authorities such as NYC major Bill DeBlasio, was to downplay the damage the virus could inflict and irresponsibly encouraged people to ignore warnings from concerned parties. Leaders have a duty to citizens to convey a sense of care for their needs in such dire times and to effectively communicate accurate information, not to attempt to score political points. One of the key traits of good leaders is their ability to surround themselves with more knowledgeable people, experts, and it is in situations like these that we can evaluate their success in this task. Donald Trump’s arrogance is such that he has unsurprisingly failed at this. A quick look at the history of his appointments will clearly confirm it.
Now, the US has escalated the shutdown measures as the virus threatens to bring the health system to its knees. It has also significantly stepped up testing capacity, having tested more people in absolute terms than any other country. These steps are positive, but politicians must fight the temptation to promise a return to normalcy before it is actually plausible and statistics support it. This applies to every country, not just the US. I understand many people are also worried about the economy and the effect of this global shutdown on their nation’s growth, but an uncontained virus would result in such a public health crisis that would cripple economies for much longer than the current measures. Leaders must recognize that their choice is between something bad and something much worse and step up to the challenge accordingly.
On the other hand, we have China. I understand and deeply feel for all the Chinese people that have been discriminated and singled out during this crisis as if it was their fault. Because of this misguided treatment, I feel the obligation to call everyone to distinguish between regular Chinese citizens and the authoritarian Chinese government. I will say it straight, this crisis could have been handled appropriately had it not been for the CCP’s concentrated efforts to hide the severity of the outbreak. Chinese leaders failed at being transparent. They lied and the world is paying the price.
Li Wenliang passed away on February 7th, having been infected with the virus while treating patients. He has one of a group of at least 8 doctors that was persecuted by authorities for their attempt to warn the public about the possible impact of Covid-19 (back then still not identified as such). They were accused of spreading false information and had to agree to not discuss concerns in public. This was back in December of 2019. Furthermore, on January 14th China declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus, also delaying the warnings of the WHO, which took these statements for granted and did not warn about human-to-human transmission until January 23rd. The actions of the CCP, which has to this day not provided a number of tests done, led to other politicians failing to recognize the seriousness of the situation, as well as to the WHO delaying its classification of the virus as a global pandemic. Taiwan actually released official warnings in January, but thanks to its subjugation by China these warnings fell on deaf ears. Politics triumphed over responsibility.
Crises like this one reveal who was born to lead and who wasn’t. They reveal who got to where they are by their desire to serve people and who was merely reaching for a powerful position. They reveal who is willing to make the tough but correct choices and who is not. Being a leader has never been an easy job, and being a leader today, whether in the health care system, in government or in business, is particularly agonizing. Today is a great opportunity for all of us who are not in positions of power to take a deep and critical look at the people we have placed (or that we allow to remain) in these positions. Tomorrow we have the obligation of holding these people accountable. The day after tomorrow and every single day after that we must, for the sake of our children’s future, make an active effort to adequately choose our representatives, otherwise, we will continue to be just as vulnerable on every crisis we face.