US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — There are two types of crises: those for which we could not prepare because nobody had foreseen them, and those for which we had to prepare because they were actually expected. Covid-19 belongs to the second category, and it does not matter what US President Donald Trump says on this subject, trying to evade responsibility for the catastrophe that has begun. The coronavirus itself is new, and the start time of the current outbreak could not be predicted, but experts very well understood that such a pandemic was very likely.
More than sufficient warning was the epidemic of SARS SARS, MERS virus, swine flu H1N1, Ebola and other epidemic outbreaks. Fifteen years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised and updated the global epidemic response system, trying to address the weaknesses in the system identified during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
In 2016, the World Bank launched the “Emergency Anti-Pandemic Financing Facility” to help low-income countries facing an international epidemic crisis. And it is astounding that just a few months before the appearance of Covid-19 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the Trump administration received a report prepared by US government departments with a warning about the likely onset of an influenza pandemic, comparable in scale to the epidemic of the Spanish flu a hundred years ago, which killed an estimated , 50 million people worldwide.
Like climate change, the Covid-19 was a crisis that was waiting in the wings. In the United States, the reaction of the authorities was especially catastrophic. Trump has downplayed the severity of this crisis for several weeks. And when the number of infected and hospitalized began to grow sharply, America suddenly discovered that it was sorely lacking in testing kits, medical masks, artificial respiration apparatus and other medical materials.
The United States did not ask for the test kits provided by WHO and could not start its own production of reliable tests on time. Trump refused to use his powers to requisition medical products from private manufacturers, which forced the hospitals and state authorities to compete sharply with each other for scarce supplies.
Delays in testing and quarantining were expensive for Europe, where Italy, Spain, France and the UK are now paying a heavy price. Some countries in East Asia have responded much better. South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong seem to be controlling the spread of the disease, thanks to a combination of measures – testing, monitoring of infection chains and strict quarantine.
Interesting contrasts are observed within countries. In northern Italy, the situation in the Veneto region is much better than in neighboring Lombardy, which is mainly due to more extensive testing and earlier restrictions on movement. In the United States, the neighboring states of Kentucky and Tennessee reported the first cases of Covid-19 with a difference of several days. But by the end of March, there were four times fewer cases in Kentucky than in Tennessee, because the Kentucky authorities acted much faster, declaring a state of emergency and closing public institutions.
Basically, this crisis is developing exactly as one would expect from the prevailing nature of governance in a particular country. Trump’s incompetent, clumsy, self-aggrandizing approaches to dealing with the crisis could not come as a surprise, despite all their lethality. And in Brazil, the equally conceited and changeable President Jair Bolsonaru, true to himself, continues to underestimate risks.
On the other hand, it should not be surprising that governments reacted faster and more efficiently where they enjoy significant public trust, for example, in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
China’s reaction turned out to be typically Chinese: hiding information about the spread of the virus, a high level of social control, and massive resource mobilization when the threat became apparent. Turkmenistan has banned the word coronavirus, as well as the use of medical masks in public places. Viktor Orban in Hungary took advantage of the crisis to strengthen his power: he dissolved the parliament, after having vested himself with extraordinary powers for an unlimited period.
The current crisis particularly sharply emphasizes the dominant features of the political life of each country. And therefore, the states of the world are turning into exaggerated versions of themselves. Thus, this crisis may, to a lesser extent, turn out to be the important milestone in global politics and economics, which many are now talking about. It will not direct the world on a significantly different development trajectory, but rather strengthen and consolidate existing trends.
Epoch-making events like the current crisis give rise to our own “confirming tendentiousness”: we will be inclined to see confirmation of our own worldview in the Covid-19 disaster, looking for the first signs of the future economic and political order that we have long wanted to come about.
Those who want to expand the role of the state and the amount of public goods will receive a lot of reasons to believe that this crisis justifies their beliefs. And in the same way, those who are skeptical of the state and condemn its incompetence will find confirmation of their previous views. Those who want to expand the role of global governance will argue that a stronger international public health system would reduce the costs of the pandemic. And those who seek to strengthen nation-states will begin to point out many examples where WHO was clearly mistaken in the fight against the pandemic (for example, taking statements by Chinese officials at face value, opposing the ban on the movement of people and proving that masks are not needed) .
In short, Covid-19 will probably not change – and even less will reverse – the trends that appeared before the crisis. Neoliberalism will continue to die slowly. Authoritarian populists will become even more authoritarian. Hyperglobalization will continue to be on the defensive, and nation-states will regain their political positions. China and the United States will continue to move towards a clash. And within national states, the struggle between oligarchs, authoritarian populists and liberal internationalists will increase as the left struggles to develop a program that is attractive to most voters.
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