Hoping for good sense to prevail
Mohammad Anwar
Congratulations to the president-elect of the United States of America, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, on his historic victory in the US presidential election. What is important for the world community in his success is the fact that while the incumbent disregarded the most devastating pandemic sweeping the Earth, killing and maiming humanity with impunity, the president-elect has designated the Covid-pandemic as the most important business to be tackled even before his swearing in as the 46th president.
He confidently announced on the evening of his victory speech that tackling the pandemic and returning to the American way of life was at the top of his priority list. He delivered his acceptance speech at his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, which is being dubbed by many as the best in his life.
Immediately after thanking the American people, his team, workers, family, and friends, he declared without hesitation: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to each other again, to make progress. We must stop treating our opponents as our enemy.”
Emotions over, the president-elect plunged into his action-design of announcing a team of scientists and experts in two days to work on a plan for the country’s coronavirus strategy. The president-elect announced a 13-person coronavirus task force on Monday.
The president-elect has been planning a while, and will continue to plan, as the pandemic would be the biggest item on the new president’s agenda when he steps into the office on January 20, 2021.
This is hugely in contrast to the incumbent, whose actions are regarded as having exacerbated the adversity of the pandemic. The virus nearly infected 10 million Americans and killed over 239,000, and continues to infect over 100,000 people and kill more than 1,000 people every day. He has callously disregarded public health regulations, and audaciously undermined science and scientific institutions.
He seems to have deliberately crippled the scientific flagships of world health, including the WHO, the CDC, and the FDA.
He appears to have continuously lied to the American people about the true danger imposed by the virus. His negative views and frank mockery of the public health measures of social distancing, use of masks, test and trace, among others, tremendously harmed the American cause against the pandemic and some of the harm done could be permanent. Not only did he not support public health measures recommended by recognized international and national experts, he influenced his supporters to sabotage the measures of lockdown meant to slow the viral transmission.
The US administration had systematically undermined, censored, suppressed, and cajoled the government scientists working to study the virus and reduce its harm.
WHO was informed by China of “a pneumonia of an unknown cause” on December 31, 2019, and WHO flagged the information on its social media accounts on January 4. On January 14, WHO tweeted: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
However, on the same day, WHO’s head of emerging diseases informed journalists that there was limited human-to-human transmission observed in Wuhan. A week later, January 22, the WHO confirmed there was clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.
Some of the media had reported that WHO had delayed reporting this information publicly, being requested by the Chinese government, which WHO categorically denies. On January 24, Trump expressed effusive praise for the Chinese authority’s efforts in combating the virus. He stated: “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.”
On January 24, The Lancet published the first reports from Chinese scientists on a virus spreading in Wuhan. No news on the Lancet had been published on the Wuhan virus prior to January 24.
In April, Trump went into an all-out offensive against the WHO, stating that he would halt all funding if it failed to demonstrate substantial improvement within 30 days. His grievances were that WHO had failed to inform the world community of the danger of Covid-19, and had consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet.
However, Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet, stated that the journal never published any report in early December 2019 about a virus spreading in Wuhan, and confirmed that the first reports Lancet published were from Chinese scientists on January 24, 2020. President Trump blamed the malfeasance of the Chinese government for instigating the global pandemic and manipulating the WHO in misleading the world, as China had total control over the organization.
His claims were not substantiated by credible evidence. The US is the single largest contributor to WHO, contributing 15% of the total budget of the agency. With a withdrawal of this financial support, the WHO’s financial viability would severely be threatened and the future of many programs promoting health care and tackling disease would come to an end.
Fortunately, Trump could not immediately discontinue financial contributions to WHO, as regulations pertaining to the membership of the US required a year’s advance notice before the contribution could be stopped, and fortunately for the rest of the world, the election in the US has given the appropriate verdict.
In response to the announcement of US withdrawal from the WHO, the president-elect responded that on his first day as president, he will rejoin the agency and restore American leadership on the world stage.
May good sense prevail, and allow the democratic principle to continue.