Updated: Mar 25, 2020
On January 22nd, 2020, the world’s elite descended upon the snowy town of Davos, Switzerland to convene 50th Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
In an interview to CNBC’s Joe Kernen at WEF, President Donald Trump dismissed the possibility of an imminent “pandemic”. 24 hours prior to the interview, the first case of
coronavirus in the US was detected by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Washington State. Trump blatantly shrugged coronavirus’s comparison to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the implications on the GDP. “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’ going to be just fine.” he said. Joe Kernen further asked “Do you trust that we’re going to know everything we need to know from China?” to which Trump confidently replied “I do. I do. I have a great relationship with President Xi. We just signed probably the biggest deal ever made.” Earlier that month President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu-He singed a US-China trade deal which will have Beijing purchase an additional $200 billions of US goods and services over the next two years.
“China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”, tweeted President Trump on January 24th. In the midst of a lucrative trade deal, Trump was gloating about the transparent dealings and efforts of the Chinese premier. Fast forward eight weeks to March 16th when @POTUS tweeted “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”.
WHAT HAPPENED IN TWO MONTHS ?
From ridiculing all possibilities of a pandemic, praising President XI and disregarding any impact on the GDP , Trump declared “National Emergency” over COVID-19 pandemic- which he termed as a “Chinese Virus” and Dow Jones saw the biggest single-dayplunge (percentage) since the 1987 market crash.
Similar to a scene from an apocalyptic film, portraying the world at the brink of destruction, the French President Emmanuel Macron announced “We are at War” on March 16th. He declared nationwide lockdown for at least 15 days, as France steps up its efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.
No one has been spared by the “pandemic” of COVID-19 which originated in China. From the first lady of Canada, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, actor Tom Hanks and ~10% of the Iranian Parliament has been tested positive. The leaders of South Asian countries convened a video conference where nations agreed to devise a common strategy to meet the challenge posed by the pandemic. Prime Minister Modi of India proposed the creation of an emergency fund with an initial contribution of $10 million to halt the onslaught of the disease that has so far infected over 200,000 people and killed nearly 6,000 people globally.
What started off as a potential pandemic now has spread to over 150 countries with more than 60% cases outside China.It is being popularly compared to the deadliest pandemic in history; Spanish flu, a respiratory virus which wiped out between 50M and 100M people in 1918.
COULD THIS BE AVOIDED ?
Could a global pandemic of this scale be contained or was it uncontrollable since its inception ? When a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China contracted COVID-19 back on Nov 17th, 2019 was there transparency on part of the authorities or manipulation to keep the news under the wraps ?When two of the most powerful nations are suppressing information and creating the illusion of an Utopian scenario with regard to what is now being termed as a “Pandemic”– it is a matter of grave concern for human beings across the globe. It is one thing when the US President doesn’t want to cause panic, but a completely different situation when he keeps changing his stance on a subject which has led to consideration of a $1 Trillion relief plan by the Congress !
MISINFORMATION & POLITICAL MANIPULATION
In these two months we have seen an unprecedented flooding of information about theories, facts and speculations about the COVID-19. It is clear that the virus won’t infect everyone, but the “misinfodemic” will spare none.
On the top of everything Trump has the audacity to call it a “Chinese” Virus ! Does he even know the Xenophobia and hatred he might be fueling by his coarse vocabulary? Before this lock down, I was visiting an Asian-American Friend, “People were walking away from me in the park and looking at me as if I’m the virus itself?”. Which President misinforms its citizens and then tops it off with headless remarks that creates distress in the society.
As of March 24th, 2020 all 50 states have reported cases of COVID-19 in USA. At least 49,594 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for Coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, and at least 622 patients with the virus have died.
In the world of cutting edge technology and sophisticated usage of Artificial Intelligence, we failed to foresee a pandemic which would not only temporarily cease globalization but transform the very socio-economic economic fabric of the world.
While movement of 6 billion people has come to a standstill, the information continues to flow at a lightning speed between continents. Compared to the remarks from January when President Trump had everything under control- now the federal government is preparing for a pandemic that could last up to 18 months or longer and "include multiple waves of illness”.
We are entering an uncharted territory, where social distancing, self-quarantine and lockdown have become the trending hashtags on twitter and Instagram. I can’t stop contemplating what is The Best Source Of Information? If all the information provided to us is manipulated to advance the agendas of self-serving politicians then who do we turn to?
In the dynamic world of tech-savvy youth, my hope is once this pandemic is over- it will ignite a spark in the generation of today to ask questions to the ones in Power. In this world devoid of human connection, my hope is that once this is over- we will ask the President to answer for the Misinfodemic that he has caused by the lousy attitude to nip the virus in the initial days.
Archish is the Founder & Executive Director of R Ventures Foundation. He has worked closely with the German government to provide access to vocational education to refugees. Previously, Archish served as an assistant to Prof. Alain Goudsmet, INSEAD, Fontainebleau. He has studied investment and finance at Cass Business School, Master of International Affairs at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy and non-fiction writing at Cambridge University. He was awarded Next-Gen Scholar by the Centre for High Impact Philanthropy at University of Pennsylvania; Honorary membership of Heidelberg International Club by Mayor Eckart Wuzner.