For the past six months, the world has been battling the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. As at May 22, the virus had spread to 188 countries, with over 5,067,579 persons having contracted the disease and 332,711 had died of it.
In China, where the virus first appeared and was recognised to be of pandemic proportions, the government immediately went on the offensive and locked down the city of Wuhan, which was recognised as the centre of the epidemic and areas adjacent to it.
Within a short period of time, a number of human rights groups was crying foul complaining the rights of the people of Wuhan and its surroundings were being violated. Sections of the western-based media spoke stridently against the forceful removal of infected citizens to hospitals. Undeterred by the criticism, China continued with its lockdown and treatment of COVID-19 patients, but the death-rate continued rising. By the third week of March, however, the growth in numbers of COVID-19 patients began plateauing and its spread confined. Meanwhile on March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Shortly after, the virus had begun spreading from Korea, to Japan to Italy and Spain and elsewhere. Soon the western democracies were forced to lockdown their own countries, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. The human rights charges against China regarding lock-downs were soon forgotten, as country after country was forced to enforce lock-downs, social distancing and various other unpopular measures to bring the virus under control.
However, while most country leaders were putting various unpopular but necessary systems in place to combat the spread of the virus and protect their people, the self-styled leader of the ‘free world’ was in a state of denial.
US President Donald Trump, who is facing election year was on the horns of dilemma. Enforcing social distancing, shutting down businesses leading to food shortages, loss of employment and rising poverty seemed a sure-fire recipe for disaster to a person facing an election. And so, Trump who campaigned during the earlier election on the slogan ‘America First’, decided at this moment it was going to be ‘Trump First’ and to hell with the ‘great’ American people. Trump went into denial mode and he said coronavirus posed no threat to the US. The US was prepared to face the threat posed by the virus, no lock-downs or social distancing was necessary. The country has sufficient quantities of surgical masks and ventilators he claimed. The Medical experts were wrong, he stressed.
Trump said he had a ‘feeling’- not based on medical knowledge or expertise - that the anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine was the medication to combat the coronavirus. To take matters to the borders of lunacy, the President then prescribed his countrymen to inject themselves with disinfectant to keep the coronavirus at bay! So the US authorities took no precautions against the coronavirus, despite medical advice to the contrary. Within weeks, the virus spread like wildfire throughout the country.
Today, on May 23, the US has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world – one million-six-hundred and forty-thousand and rising. The virus has also led to 96,340 fatalities. Around 36.5 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past two months, with experts warning that figures could peak above the Great Depression in 1933. According to the latest figures from the US Labour Department (as of 14 May), 36.5 million American citizens have filed unemployment claims over the past eight weeks.
Trump’s initial disdain of the coronavirus has cost thousands of Americans their lives, jobs and peace of mind. But, Trump never admits to making mistakes, rather he looks to find scapegoats to cover his exposed behind. This time around, with a forthcoming election staring him in the face, a worsening US economy, growing unemployment and thousands dying because he decided to put self before country, the aging US President is presently trying to shift blame and responsibility on to China and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the spread of the virus.
Latest polls in the US show Trump is now trailing his Democratic challenger by a margin of eight points or more. To worsen his plight, his challenger has stressed that he would not shield Trump from possible future litigation regarding his income tax returns and other alleged illegal activities involving his business empire etc.
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, Trump was leading the polls. But as the saying goes, ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining’ and perhaps the coronavirus may help the American voters see the dangers Trump poses to their country and vote him out of office and rid the world of one of its greatest disruptive figures.