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Thu Oct 22, 2020, 10:06 AM

How Europe and America blew it on the pandemic: A tale of blindness and arrogance

How Europe and America blew it on the pandemic: A tale of blindness and arrogance
In Europe and the U.S., politicians and the public were guided by fantasy when the lessons of Asia were clear

OCTOBER 22, 2020 10:00AM

(Salon) It is said that times of crisis reveal who we really are. If this adage works for civilizations as it does for individuals, Europe and America have reasons to worry.

The illusion of getting the new coronavirus under control was short-lived, barely surviving summer. Europe is seeing infections rising to spring levels; mortality remains lower but health care systems in parts of Spain and France are on red alert again. Meanwhile, the United States has successfully curbed several major outbreaks, most notably in New York, but remains the worst affected country in the world. The light at the end of the tunnel is rather faint.

There have been attempts to identify ritual scapegoats, most often the World Health Organization. Indeed, WHO made its share of missteps, from an initially hesitant stance toward face masks to cheerleading for the Chinese dictatorship. Still, it was WHO that declared COVID-19 a "public health emergency of international concern" on Jan. 30 and urged countries to set up strong measures ensuring early detection of the virus.

The West listened and did next to nothing. That was the time to prepare tests, stockpile protective equipment, review the capacities of public health care. Donald Trump's lackadaisical stance towards the infection is well known and hardly surprising, but few Western leaders did much better in the beginning. Despite WHO's clear warning, governments across Europe were caught completely unprepared a month later. Why this time was wasted remains a mystery and it's difficult to understand how politicians who are usually scrutinized for every detail were able to get away with such a level of negligence. ...........(more)


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