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American failure

The US now has the world’s highest number of deaths from Covid-19, with at least 21,692 losing their lives to the virus as of Sunday afternoon. Americans will continue to die in large numbers until our country mounts a coherent response to the epidemic. President Donald Trump has failed. The US still lacks even a basic plan for controlling the epidemic and restarting the economy.

It only takes a straightforward comparison of the US’ death toll with that of Asian countries to understand the scale of the Trump administration’s failure. The US now has about 62 deaths per million people. Meanwhile, according to Johns Hopkins University data, Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan all have less than 1 death per million; and China, South Korea and Singapore have each under 5 deaths per million. India, too, took decisive actions, with a complete national lockdown beginning on March 24, when there still had been only 10 deaths in a country of 1.3 billion people. As of today, India has only 289 reported deaths, or 0.2 cases per million, and the hospitals are not jammed with patients as in the US.

Unlike these Asian countries, Trump failed to prepare for the pandemic even after the alarm bells went off. He ignored urgent warning signs. He continued to make light of the high risks, saying repeatedly that everything was under control.

Trump was certainly not alone. Many European countries also failed to act in a timely way and some have death rates per million that are even higher than in the US. The United Kingdom, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, dithered instead of acted – and now has one of Europe’s worst trajectories, while the prime minister himself landed in the ICU (he left the hospital on Sunday). In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has been in denial as the epidemic grows.

Trump, meanwhile, repeatedly fails to put public health experts truly in the lead. He ignores the rudiments of basic public health and seems to view the epidemic in political and electoral rather than public health terms. As usual, he blames others for his own disastrous failings.

Trump’s latest target of attack is the World Health Organization (WHO), which plays a key role in helping governments around the world to fight this disease. Here is what Trump tweeted on February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart.” Yet now, with Trump’s approach a tragic and obvious failure (except to his ardent followers) he turns on the WHO because, he says, they “called it wrong.”

His hyper-partisan and irresponsible allies in Congress follow his lead, calling for the US to cut off funds to WHO in the midst of the pandemic.

Jeffrey D Sachs, "American failure," The News. 2020-04-15.
Keywords: Political science , Trump administration , Public health , Donald Trump , China , South Korea , Asian countries , Singapore , Taiwan , WHO , UK