by: Ahmad Mustafa
(The writer is a student of International Relations)
By23rd of January 2020, we had seen an increase in Coronavirus related talks on all platforms but it was still being considered as a locally affecting health crisis. It is the date when China announced its first lock down due to the rapid spread of this epidemic. In no time, this transformed into a pandemic spreading quite swiftly in Iran and Italy as well. Although demographics are changing very quickly, the statistics show that the tourism oriented countries in Europe have fallen a victim to this virus very quickly. Among them most affected countries have been Spain, Italy, Germany and France. But now, the USA has surpassed all the other nations with most coronavirus positive cases in the world and has superseded even the European Countries with 238,880+ active cases and 6,558+ deaths and 11,941+ active recoveries, as of reported by April 04, 2020. The USA is having a huge number of coronavirus positive cases despite having the world’s best laboratories, research centers and medical technology. When it was time for the US to start taking the measures and designing the strategy to combat the oncoming health challenge, again there started a political blame game between USA and China on the origin and spread of COVID-19. The Governments on both sides are even taking actions against the journalists who are trying to criticize either China or USA and deporting them. Since the death toll in the first month was 1000 and doubled only in the next three days, there is a general perception in the US that China might be behind the rapid increase in the infections across the country, though there is a clear lack of evidence.
Keeping these perceptions, theories and blame game aside, the question arises why the USA has been the worst affected in terms of COVID-19 outbreak? One of the main reasons behind this is tourism and travel. The US is the 3rd most popular tourist attraction right after France having 87 million tourists and Spain having 82 million tourists and the USA with 77 million tourists worldwide annually. Furthermore, the USA receives and is home to a big number of foreign students, research workers from all over the world and in my opinion, the late lockdown lead to influx of the COVID-19.The first lockdown in USA was announced on 19th March but by that time already 14,000 Covid 19 positive cases were reported. According to the news reports by 27th March, there were only 21 out of 51 states which were under lockdown, and these included the densely populated states. On the other hand, sparsely populated states have not been locked down. During the times when the whole world is moving towards a complete lockdown, life is still going on in a routine in many states. According to analysts, almost 39% of the population is still not under lockdown.
Lack of leadership on part of President Donald.J.Trump has been another factor since the public awareness and mobilizing the health system could not be started successfully at required time. The speeches looked confused and the strategies indecisive about what actions needed to be taken and whether the lockdown was a good option or not. This lack of proper planning was also well replicated by the public’s response and they continued with social gatherings. So meanwhile the leadership was confused about the planning, the virus was finding its way to spread unnoticed and in no time the curve was seen steeper, more than any other country facing this crisis for a much longer time. Where all the countries around the globe, whether developed or developing, are prioritizing public health, President Trump is focusing on the economic situation and is considering ending the lockdowns by Easter. The health experts, however, do not agree with this idea as it seems very obvious that COVID-19 shall not be over until then. Even the opposition is strongly criticizing the strategies of the Trump Government, although the Washington Post published that Trump cares more about the stock market from Humans.
A very dangerous aspect in the current situation has been the public awareness, which unfortunately has had the same response in the US and Pakistan, where a responsible attitude by the public was greatly missing. The similarity in the behavior of the general public can be seen where massive social gatherings and events were still being celebrated even though the news about the pandemic were spread around the globe. “If I get corona ,I get Corona “, a famous line from a youngster at a beach and in our part of the world, people taking Corona for granted cannot do us any harm show the insensitivity of general public and how crucial and challenging it is for the governments to educate the people. On the other side, the governments have not been able to manage the test kits, protective equipment and all the material required to fight the coronavirus. Though in all science fiction movies, by this time since the start of an infection or pandemic, the good guys become able to fight and defeat the viruses, pandemic and bad guys but this is a real scenario and here no approach is working. So, the only solution available at the time is to stay home and not pass on the infection, neither to saturate the hospitals. It has been seen that China, Spain and Italy are fighting Covid-19 using the same approach and the government of Pakistan should also take some extra necessary steps along with lockdown and create social awareness and educate the precautionary measures for Covid 19 in remote rural areas.
Associated Press Service (APS)