OPN CORONAVIRUS1-1585644909214
An embassy staff checks the body temperature of a French national being evacuated during India's government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Lycée Français International in New Delhi on March 30, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Why has China succeeded in getting a handle on the coronavirus while one of the world’s richest countries — the United States — now holds the dubious number one ranking with respect to total cases and new cases?

There is no definitive answer but it seems to me that cooperation with Beijing rather than poisoned arrows laced with blame and insult would best serve people desperate for the restoration of their lives and livelihoods within the shortest possible time frame.

At the time of writing, more than 112,500 Americans have been afflicted as opposed to 81,394 cases in China, whose population is four times greater than that of the US.

Britain is beginning to look directionless. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s initial ‘herd immunity’ strategy flopped amid warnings of a potential death toll upwards of 250,000


Let us give credit where credit’s due; the Chinese government has done something right which others struggling to beat back the tide might consider emulating. Life in the city of Wuhan where the virus was initially detected is almost back to normal following almost three months of a strict lockdown.

Unity in tackling COVID-19

The Chinese President Xi Jinping reached out to his US counterpart during a recent phone call stressing that US-China relations are at an all-time low while urging unity in combating the pandemic.

China has stretched out the hand of friendship and is ready to assist its rival with its recovery. Surely now is the time for all stricken nations to put their differences aside and show some humility. Arrogance and geopolitical one-upmanship will not contribute to saving lives or keeping people in jobs.

The US may have its task force of experts, specialists with experience in dealing with Sars, Mers, Ebola and others but COVID-19 has proven to be far more virulent than its predecessors and is harder to detect because it can be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals. Virologists admit that there remain holes in their knowledge.

Moreover, advisories from professionals suggesting people need not wear masks other than as a face-touching deterrents has been superseded by a World Health Organisation (WHO) study confirming that the virus can survive in the air.

Secondly, the mighty United States is inexplicably short of basic medical supplies such as gloves, masks, test kits and protective clothing for first line hospital staff.

Almost every day Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York — the country’s virus epicentre — is seen pleading with the Federal government for ventilators and that is putting him at odds with the president who believes the projected need for 30,000 ventilators is excessive. Cuomo hit back, accusing Trump of being “grossly uninformed”.

White House coronavirus efforts

In reality, the president is open to the requirements of admiring governors but is unwilling to speak with critics; he has openly admitted ordering Vice-President Mike Pence not to call governors who “aren’t appreciative of White House coronavirus efforts”.

Hospitals around the country are preparing guidelines for the looming eventuality that shortages will force doctors to make Sophie’s choices on the basis of which patients have the greatest chance of survival. No health care professional should ever be responsible for deciding who lives and who dies!

Latest on coronavirus

China is donating planeloads of equipment to nations in need all over the world. Perhaps all that’s required is a simple White House request.

Nevertheless, in spite of soaring case numbers, President Trump’s approval rating is at its highest, possibly due to his signing-off on a $2 trillion (Dh7.3 trillion) coronavirus stimulus package that does afford financial breathing space to small companies and the unemployed while at the same time injecting renewed market confidence.

That said, if the death rate reaches unsustainable levels, attitudes could change.

Across the pond, Britain is beginning to look directionless. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s initial ‘herd immunity’ strategy flopped amid warnings of a potential death toll upwards of 250,000.

His voluntary self-isolation/social-distancing plan was a non-starter as major segments of the country simply carried on as usual. His imposition of a mandatory lockdown has more holes than a sieve.

A headline in the Observer reads “Boris Johnson to warn UK: tougher lockdown may be necessary”. Johnson, who has tested positive for the virus along with his Health Secretary Matt Hancock, is normally an irrepressible optimist so his dire warnings of far worse to come if Britons fail to heed advice must be taken seriously.

The NHS’ Medical Director Stephen Powis made a startling admission. “The UK will have done well if fewer than 20,000 die”, he said.

It seems to me that both the US and the UK could learn from the decisive leadership shown by Chinese, South Korean and Singaporean authorities. Tackling the outbreak must trump economic concerns and governments should not permit democratic norms to put a damper on measures taken by Chinese, South Korean and Singaporean authorities that could be construed as authoritarian.

This is real. This is war against an unseen enemy that knows no barriers. Singly, nations risk collapsing like ninepins. Only global cooperation can produce a sure-fire win.

— Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East