21.04.2020 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

Politicizing the Battle Against COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a massive blow to the health system, economy and life within communities, and it has already impacted lives of millions of people. The consequences of the outbreak will be felt for years to come.

In such a climate, certain nations are actively trying to use the battle against the Coronavirus in their own political interests by demonizing certain participants of this fight against COVID-19 and intensifying the information war against them.

For instance, television channel CNN reported on 14 April that the British government had been reporting lower fatalities due to the Coronavirus than in reality, apparently, in order to soften the criticism directed against it for its poor handling of the crisis.

Having acknowledged its complete failure to stem the outbreak resulting in the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world being registered in the United States, the White House has recently focused all of its political will and propaganda efforts on improving its badly-damaged image worldwide and in the USA itself. Washington is trying hard to shift all the blame to “the main culprits”, i.e. China and the World Health Organization (WHO). It has accused Beijing of the fact that its doctors had failed to warn the global community about the dangers posed by the Coronavirus early enough and had even attempted to misinform the rest of the world about the scale of the outbreak thus misleading other nations. In the same vein, Americans have accused WHO of simply following China’s lead and of giving a biased assessment of PRC’s efforts to fight the outbreak.

Having interpreted such a stance taken by the White House as a call to action, the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs began an investigation into the origins and the spread of the Coronavirus, as well as the roles played by China and WHO in the current crisis. In the meantime, President Donald Trump announced that the USA would stop making contributions to this organization in the midst of the pandemic. In fact, according to some sources, Washington is behind in its payments to WHO, and reportedly, the sum in question amounts to a record $200 million. Washington’s moves immediately drew criticism from the global community. The reason behind such actions, taken by the leadership, is readily apparent, after all, if the rapid rise in deaths due to the Coronavirus in the United States cannot be stopped, Donald Trump could lose in the upcoming presidential election. Hence, the White House and Republicans are looking for ways to prevent this from happening by using foreign policy, propaganda, accusations against China and WHO, and other “external” factors to their advantage.

In the meantime, following Washington’s lead, several thousand US citizens filed class-action suits against China demanding considerable compensation for damages incurred and claiming that they suffered enormous losses due to Beijing’s negligence, as it allowed the Coronavirus to spread to the rest of the world. According to the Berman Law Group, such complaints have already been filed in Florida, Nevada and Texas. Based on estimates by the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative British foreign policy think tank, if the United States were to sue China, the expected compensation for damages incurred as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic could amount to $1.2 trillion. In addition, the Henry Jackson Society, which is clearly still following orders from Washington as well as London, has been urging other nations, in a provocative manner, to also file lawsuits against China and pointing out various means of doing so: via WHO, the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration and courts in Hong Kong as well as the United States.

However, information about the amount of time required by other governments to respond to the pandemic could have a sobering effect on those who accuse China of failing to inform the global community about the threat posed by COVID-19 in a timely manner. For example, Great Britain had delayed its response by eight weeks while Washington had ignored obvious signs for 70 days! So will anyone in the United States or the UK have to bear the responsibility for not springing into action quickly enough? After all, tens of thousands of people infected with the Coronavirus have already died in these two nations as a result.

The Guardian has reported that the PRC has become a convenient scape goat for those politicians in the USA and Western Europe who are seeking to distract the public “from their own disastrous mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Recently, in light of anti-Russian sentiments prevalent among the current political establishment in the United States, there have been attempts to blame Russia and even personally its President Vladimir Putin for the pandemic. And newspaper The New York Times took on the lead role in this propaganda campaign. It is also worth noting that, earlier, US President Donald Trump had already accused a number of American media outlets of publishing fake stories amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, and these news sources had included The New York Times.

Various, at times unscrupulous politicians and corrupt media outlets have joined the campaign to politicize the battle against the Coronavirus. The latter have increasingly often published false information that deliberately discredits efforts made by China, Russia and a number of other countries to help nations and its citizens suffering from COVID-19.

The field of medicine and medical equipment has also turned into another geopolitical advantage in the fight against the Coronavirus outbreak. Take for example the recent war over medical masks initiated by US politicians. Under the banner “America First”, Washington has been intercepting large batches of personal protection equipment to the detriment of European and other countries by paying a much higher price to manufacturers for it and thus outbidding other nations.

However, the purchase of medical equipment in the aforementioned manner is not the only manifestation of Washington’s desire, amidst the COVD-19 pandemic, to reach its aims, which are also political and hegemonic in nature. Unfortunately, the push to develop medication and vaccines targeting COVID-19 is also being drawn into the geopolitical whirlpool created by Washington. After all, anyone who possesses a treatment or a vaccine for the disease can expect to receive not only substantial political but also financial rewards as well as manufacturing licenses for other important medicines. And to reach these objectives, the United States is willing to use as many resources and put in as much effort as possible by trying to “buy” foreign experts and their work. Medication that will successfully treat COVID-19 may become a symbol of the battle among nations.

Still, outcomes of such efforts by the United States are at times unexpected. For instance, last year, the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) announced that a revolutionary algorithm had been developed. They said it was capable of predicting whether a serviceman was “falling ill—due to anything from a cold to exposure to biological weapons—up to 48 hours before they” started to show any symptoms. The algorithm was developed “hand-in-hand with health IT company Royal Philips”. According to the report by Nextgov, since US servicemen can get sick at times and this could have serious repercussions on their ability to perform their duties, the DTRA had been “trying to get ahead of this problem”. But then, a few months later, the Coronavirus outbreak started and spread to the United States in March. However, state agency DTRA, tasked with developing “medical and material protection against threats” had been apparently unable to use this “predictive algorithm”.

Naturally, this begs the question: “What has the DTRA been doing for the last few decades? And what did it spend billions of dollars, contributed by US taxpayers, on?” After all, the DTRA has not been of much help to the common Americans in the current crisis. And, in the present climate, would it not be reasonable for American families who had lost loved ones to COVID-19 to file lawsuits not against China but the DTRA and individuals from the US military industrial complex and political circles who had got rich on this fake “predictive algorithm”.

That is why no one could possibly want the search for a cure for COVID-19 to turn into a political show or a propaganda campaign promoting false successes. After all, the White House is not the only one making considerable contributions and efforts towards the battle against the Coronavirus. All the nations that are currently working on vaccines are trying, at present, to shorten the testing stage for such inventions, for political and clearly financial reasons, in order to launch these products on the global market as quickly as possible. European and US regulatory bodies, i.e. the European Medicines Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, have straightaway announced that they know how to speed up clinical trial and registration processes but they have failed to assure the public this would not lead to the slackening of safety regulations.

It is worth keeping in mind that in the midst of this geopolitical rivalry, such a sudden increase in pace could have deadly consequences. According to experts, any vaccine which has not undergone rigorous testing may have side effects that could have a more negative or equally negative impact on people’s health when compared to the Coronavirus itself.

Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for online magazine the “New Eastern Outlook”.


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