Corona Virus and the arrogance of the West


To many in our Western society the notion of a deadly epidemic or pandemic belong either to a bygone era of the Great plague 14th Century that wiped out an estimated 75 -200 million people in less than five years; the more recent, ‘Spanish flu’, that claimed the lives of 50 million in an astonishing two year period, or a disease that almost is the unique preserve of non-western countries such as the very recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

As a result of this thinking , what might aptly be described as Western superiority complex some Western leaders have been driven more by the notion that, ‘these things don’t happen to countries like ours’, rather than focusing on the nature of a dealing with a contagious disease.

In early January we all watched in horror that a deadly virus was capable of killing tens of thousands of people and has the ability to rapidly spread. And what was the Western response? To view it as we did the Ebola outbreak; with concern and some charity, but at times with a sense of arrogance that these things don’t happen to countries like ours.

Even when the danger become real and present as it quickly took grip of the wealthy region of Lombardo, Italy, we at home became complacent at best, including with our very own Prime Minister was still proclaiming, ‘I’m still shaking hands’, and a lock-down with relevant emergency plans, including, wholesale testing and isolating were still some very crucial weeks away. The early talk in many political circles including the BBC Today programme, was often referring to ‘herd immunity’ which implied the virus wasnt that bad and the sooner many of us had the virus we’d ‘all be better off in the long run because we would have some immunisation to it. Thankfully leading figures are no longer taking this position.

The worst Western culprit has undoubtedly been the US President Donald Trump, whose many utterances have been divisive; calling it the ‘China virus’, along with bombastic rhetoric; ‘we’re well prepared’; ‘it’ll disappear’; ‘we’re testing everyone’. Bluster that ignored an urgent action plan and seem to serve his fragile ego.

And when he did act, such as the banning of flights from China, then Europe to the US, but left out the UK, it seemed more of a political grand standing, rather than a grand plan to effectively save lives. Unfortunately for Trump and by default the American people, this deadly virus pays no attention to political bluster. This, like any other deadly virus pays no heed to Western superiority posturing. Put simply, If you’re not prepared this virus will kill many more people.

Therefore, America stands at the precipice of an avoidable disaster, at least on the scale that could emerge. Low estimates now see 100,000 deaths in the US as a likely outcome; a worse case scenario would be nearer 200,000.

Interestingly, those State leaders, East and West who have not sought to posture or try to bluster their way out of this crises, and followed with humility the medical playbook by the letter, including swiftly acting, are now seeing the fewest fatalities, and by some margin too. Whilst many countries are seeing those dying who have caught the disease at rates of 10% Italy, 5% UK, USA, and France, others are much less South Korea, Germany and Austria of particular note who are all seeing 2%-0.7% fatalities of those who have caught the disease.

These countries all adopted the very basic rules from what could be learnt from how the Chinese have dealt the virus, and the West African countries that dealt with the Ebola crisis. That included; a very high and early testing rate for the disease, up to five to ten times the difference to other countries. They also aggressively quarantined those who might have the virus, and helped shield the most vulnerable.

Above all these State leaders have been driven to action by the proven scientific facts rather than the pseudo science that one race is more superior to the others. Of course it would be naive to think that whilst the virus clearly does not discriminate who it infects, States, and the systems within it can still prioritise who gets tested and who gets treated.

Simon Woolley