Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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09 Nov 2020 : Pandemic Election

Like many in global health, in political science and just generally everyone, it has been almost seven days of checking USA feeds for results and announcements. It has been a tumultous week in the US. Rarely has an election result in any single country produced fireworks in London, or church bells to be rung in France. It is fairly clear that the pandemic and the election collided and swung the result. It seems that without the catastrophic handling of the pandemic, the deaths and science denialism, Trump would probably have won. The pandemic seems to have made the difference, which is shocking. BLM also seems to have galvanised many black Americans to vote, although there is debate as to how much Trump picked up on the law and order backlash to widespread protests. The nature of the mail in vote suggests that those that did mail in had the pandemic in mind, and we now know how important this vote was to Biden.

Biden is clearing the decks for a COVID response. In speeches it is his top priority. A new pandemic response team is being organised headed by two reputable scientists who have spearheaded the Democratic opposition to the Trump approach, this finally heading for her immunity under Atlas. At last, science grounded politics is being put forward as the only way out of the nightmare that is the USA right now. The USA will also suspend the exiting of WHO on day 1 of the new adminsitration. However, this is still some two months away. It is likely that the Trump adminsitration will either do nothing to halt the already dire situation there, or may even have some variant of scorched earth with regard to COVID. 

The situation in the USA is really bleak. Even with anticipated lags of 3 to 4 weeks for new infections to become hospitalisations and deaths a cataclysmic winter is baked in. On Wednesday 4th November the USA had 100,000 cases for the first time, a new record. Thursday 6th November saw 121,888 cases. There are over 80 new cases per minute. Yesterday, November 8th, saw 126,742 cases, a global record, and reaally beyond any normal failing in public policy. Against this, ICU is between 70-80% full across the country. COVID cases are part of a picture emerging of ICU occupancy being determined by the virus and by those who have deferred presentation for other conditions, and are now in acute stages of illness. COVID-related mortality is on its own causing over 1,000 US deaths per day, and that country will see 10 million infections in any day. No corner has been rounded.

Europe is also in real trouble again. Many of the EU countries are in increasingly tightening conditions and lockdown. France saw a staggering 88,000 cases on the 7th; Italy 32,000 cases; and the UK is hitting circa 20,000 cases per day (although initial measures are already seeing some flattening out). Belgium, Sweden, Russia, Portugal, Greece, and other countries in the European region are all spiking. Globally, it is reported that October was the worst month of the pandemic so far, with Reuters tallying a quarter of all infections so far in the 30 days of that month.

My friends and family in the UK are all locked down. As ever, government and politics are determining our responses to the pandemic. The recent experience of Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and others, shows that the disease can at least be controlled until there is a vaccine, and that social and economic activity is possible once control is established. Half measures clearly have not worked, even in the middle way poster child responses of Sweden. As important as the public health measures are the welfare and job support schemes that allow people degrees of security amidst this all. These are no longer present in the US, for example, and the stress on families and individuals with no viable means of subsistence are enormous. Collectively, we need a global plan, and hopefully the UN Special Summit on COVID in December will see the beginnings of solidarity planning and a greater degree of progressive international action as we approach the one year mark of COVID-19.

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