COVID-19 Long Read Opinion Politics World

No one thought this could happen

Author’s Note: This article makes extensive reference to Event 201, an exercise performed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security during October 2019. To be clear about its purpose, a statement about Event 201 was issued after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s no secret that the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been… less than stellar.

It’s no secret that the US response has been particularly poor.

But who actually thought it would get this bad?

Did China know that suppressing information regarding COVID-19 would result in a pandemic whose effects have caused historic disruptions to our way of life?

Did the US know that ignoring advice from health professionals would cause the worst local outbreak in the world?

And did anyone know how absolutely incompetent the sitting president, Donald J Trump, would be in his response to this pandemic?

I would posit, ‘no’s across the board to these questions.

But let’s take a step back for a second: who the hell predicts these kinds of things anyway? Well, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security gave it a good stab all the way back in October 2019. Although, for official purposes, their exercise, Event 201, is not strictly a prediction.

Annually, the world faces as many as 200 epidemic events: this exercise posited a fictitious 201st epidemic which would turn into a global pandemic. Rather appropriately (although not by design), Event 201 presented a fictitious outbreak of a novel coronavirus (sound familiar?).

It saw 15 distinguished professionals in politics, public health and the business sector discuss potential disruptions and consequences of a global pandemic. Between all the disruptions, lack of preparedness and conflicting interests considered by the panel, their fictional pandemic claimed 65 million lives.

Most importantly, this exercise highlighted several deficiencies in our pandemic preparedness, leading to 7 key recommendations, jointly issued by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Economic Forum, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These recommendations were largely ignored by global leaders.

However, we can maybe forgive the lack of preparedness; after all, the COVID-19 pandemic began mere months after Event 201. However, what is damning on world leaders is their collective failure to follow the advice on how to respond to a pandemic.

Collaboration between the public and private sector? Almost non-existent.

Attempts to maintain travel and trade? Nope. In fact, the exact opposite.

Prioritize mitigation of economic harm? At best, governments have addressed the symptoms of unemployment and bankruptcy, but not the disease of consumer paranoia and a lack of trade.

Combat mis and disinformation? Actually, yes!

Except… 

China.

And America.

And Russia too…

Three of the largest and most powerful countries in the world have flaunted every recommendation made on how to respond to a pandemic. China and Russia spread disinformation about the virus and its effects on them. Both China and Russia have consistently presented obviously fake figures regarding their levels of COVID-19 cases. Worse still, China withheld key information about COVID-19 before it was declared a pandemic and prevented scientists in Wuhan from speaking out about the virus.

However, it could be said that we shouldn’t expect any better from two of the most oppressive regimes on the planet; but America…

For shame, America.

America: land of the free, a beacon of democracy, progress and science. And the country whose lack of response to COVID-19 resulted in the worst epidemic in the world. The country which took the most lax, most casual, most ignorant and straight up wrong approach and attitude to COVID-19 possible. The country which hasn’t yet had to worry about a second wave of COVID-19 because they are still, 5 months after their first cases, in the midst of their first wave.

And yet still, it gets worse. Donald J Trump, the president of the United States of America, can and should be directly blamed for this epidemic.

The sheer gall of his complete arrogance and flippancy in the face of COVID-19, while his people were dying. The complete hypocrisy of his praise of China’s response to COVID-19, only to take a complete u-turn and start blaming them for the entire pandemic, while sporting the worst outbreak in the world. His endorsement of hydroxichloroquine, an antimalarial drug with zero proven benefit regarding COVID-19 that can kill when misused.

This man has somehow avoided blame for this. Hell, he still has a shot at being re-elected! 

So, why couldn’t we predict that it would get this bad?

Why couldn’t we have braced ourselves for this?

Because no one thought that China, the epicentre of the initial outbreak, would withhold information.

Because no one thought that COVID-19 was a threat until it was too late.

And because no one truly understood the madness of President Donald J Trump.

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

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