With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious now that there’s no shortage of blame to go around for how most countries and national agencies have responded to the pandemic.
China, where the outbreak appears to have started, is on that list. After the alarm was raised by a doctor in Wuhan on Dec. 30, the Chinese government’s first response was to admonish him for spreading false information. While criticism of China’s political response to the pandemic is justified, China’s scientific response in investigating the virus and sharing data with the outside world has subsequently been praised.
As the above-linked article notes, most of the criticism has come from right-wing politicians led by U.S. president Donald “China Virus” Trump, but also includes prominent conservatives in the U.K. Heck, even Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer gets a shout-out in the article.
The World Health Organization has also come in for criticism for failing to respond to the pandemic fast enough, and for being too deferential to China. In the case of the U.S., it’s gone beyond criticism now, with Trump announcing yesterday that the U.S. would be suspending funding for the organization.
Again, there are grounds for criticism of WHO. But the reality is that we live in a world of nation states, and with virtually every country, to varying degrees, determined to protect its sovereignty and advance its interests, voluntary global organizations like WHO have extremely limited scope to act in times of crisis.
Trump’s move has drawn wide-spread condemnation with critics arguing that with the pandemic still growing in many areas of the world, now is not the time to hinder the ability of countries to cooperate on an international level.
Critics have also alleged that Trump’s primary motivation in demonizing WHO (and China) is to shield himself and his administration from criticism for what will surely be regarded by historians as a grievous mishandling of the pandemic.
As the pandemic has unfolded, numerous media outlets have built a damning case for (1) how unprepared the U.S. was prior to the outbreak to deal with a medical crisis of this nature and (2) the months-long strategy of denial, deflection and misinformation by Trump and political supporters at the federal, state and media level.
The case starts with an early warning from the outgoing Barack Obama administration in 2017 about the importance of pandemic preparedness, to Trump’s decision in 2018 to eliminate the National Security Council’s pandemic-response office, to Trump and his advisers ignoring and discounting numerous alerts and reports submitted by a range of U.S. security, defence and trade agencies.
You can learn more from this timeline constructed by The Guardian which starts with a Jan. 8 alert issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan and goes from there. So Trump can blame China and WHO all he wants, but his administration, with its large base of support in the science/reality denying segment of American citizenry, is the true cause of the tragedy unfolding south of the border.