Virus Path Littered With Missed Opportunities
When the history of the coronavirus is written, it will be a litany of what ifs.
What if China hadn’t silenced early reports of the outbreak in Wuhan; what if Europe had responded faster to the first cases; what if countries had heeded scientific warnings that such a widespread epidemic was even possible.
Politics was the Achilles heel that cut across the ideological divide. Chinese president Xi Jinping’s Communist Party saw emergence of the virus as a risk to its image. Western leaders such as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who initially dismissed the pandemic as something that could be controlled without stringent containment measures, feared what a u-turn would do to their economies and their credibility with the public.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s pronouncements, with a constant eye on the November election, have been a dizzying roller coaster ride — from denial of the Covid-19 threat to recognizing it could claim tens of thousands of lives.
Recent months have been story of missed opportunities: delays in isolating patients and testing, acquiring protective equipment for health workers, taking economically painful but needed action to stem the spread.
With more than 2.7 million confirmed infections, 190,000 dead and much of the global economy in free-fall, the world isn’t close to seeing the end of this.
As governments face pressure to restore some semblance of normal life, the threat of a second wave is looming. It’s unclear if we are any better prepared for that.
Last chance | Congress has pumped out almost $3 trillion to limit the economic fallout of the pandemic. But there’s a bruising confrontation ahead over the next, and perhaps final, round of aid before the 2020 elections, with control of the Senate, House and White House at stake.
Trillion euro question | European leaders are inching toward a plan for rebuilding their economies after coronavirus, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsing a huge spending program. But the bloc is divided over whether the funds should come as loans — piling more liabilities onto ailing sovereigns like Italy — or grants. The EU Commission was given till May 6 to come up with an answer.
Staying power | Whatever the state of Kim Jong Un’s health may be, he has already put North Korea in its strongest position to resist U.S. pressure in decades by building a credible nuclear threat and finding ways to dodge sanctions. Trump has cast doubt on the reports of a health scare, calling one by CNN “fake.”
Wave of anger | The newspaper advertisement by a cancer hospital in India’s most populous state didn’t mince words: any Muslim patients seeking treatment must prove they didn’t have Covid-19. The privately owned hospital apologized a day later but as Muneeza Naqvi and Upmanyu Trivedi report, the message shows the hostility against the Muslim minority as virus infections surge. Hashtags like “corona jihad” have been trending on social media, prompting a backlash from Gulf states where millions of Indians work.
Standing alone | As governments around the world pour money into their economies to cushion the blow from the coronavirus, Mexico’s president is going the other way. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insists that past bailouts worsened problems and is refusing to implement significant stimulus measures even if it means suffering for small businesses and millions of Mexican workers who are at risk of losing their jobs.
What to Watch
- After two days of delays in finalizing spending plans, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet meets today to approve the 2020 budget.
- Hong Kong’s protesters staged a small demonstration today, challenging rules that ban gatherings of more than four people and vowing to resume their pro-democracy movement.
- The fate of Sergio Moro, the former star judge behind Brazil’s biggest corruption investigation and a key member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet, is unclear hours after local media reported he had resigned as justice minister.
- South Africa will begin next week easing a nationwide lockdown that’s devastated the economy, while retaining restrictions to curb the coronavirus.
Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). In which African nation have gangs declared a cease-fire because of the virus? Send us your answers and tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at email@example.com.
And finally ... The Philippines is known for training nurses and sending them around the world, but now the nation finds itself shorthanded as its coronavirus infections and deaths rise. With more Filipinos becoming sick, the consequences of this medical brain drain are weighing heavily, with most dying without seeing a medical professional, one lawmaker says. Meanwhile, about 150,000 Filipino nurses work in the U.S. alone.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.