Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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08 Apr 2020 : 100 Days and Tedros

Today is the 100-day mark since China informed WHO of an outbreak of a novel coronavirus. Imagine that, even with the start date being earlier than the ‘official’ CCP recognition and admission of a problem, this has circulated the planet and destroyed the global economy in just that short time. The fallout on the global economy will last for decades in my opinion, and perhaps we will finally have a stock take about capitalism growth and alternate models of production and consumption and value. I hope so.

In Australia today (writing this on the 9th here) we record 6,000 cases, but the curve has bended substantially. In Brisbane outside a jury-rigged detention centre, 100 asylum seekers hold their 7th day of silent protest at their internment in an hotel. Guards come in and out and they are in fear. Debate also rages as the government refuses to extend income support to those unemployed on temporary contracts, short stay visa holders and casual staff. This encompasses 1.1 million vulnerable to loss of income.

In the US on the 8th there were a startling 1,929 deaths, and this is the highest daily death rate of any country to date. The USA appears to have broken through the curves of both Italy and Spain. This a accompanied by the jaw dropping announcement that the Federal government will cease to fund and provide community testing on Friday 10th April. FEMA states that their service was intended, all along, just as an “immediate high-impact intervention” for initial testing. This of course flies in the face that not enough testing is available in the US, and advice from all quarters to prioritise testing. Have they not enough kits still, or have they abandoned all hope of any containment or triage for health services? News from Detroit, which is now the third largest US epicentre, highlights the disproportionate number of infections and deaths in Black Americans. This I am sure will be of no surprise to Black Americans, but the rates are just howling awful in that city as compared with white citizens. Communities are being hollowed out. In a similar vein, Emily Maitlis says much the same on BBC news last night, in one of the most remarkable statements I have seen on UK TV. She states that the disease is not a ‘great leveller’ as is now entering the common sense, home-spun schtick of the media, rather it will affect the poor and lower paid more and more. She is bang on the money here, and concludes with a tight lipped statement that we will need to visit and examine the basic social contract of society in the near future. I will now pay my license fee gladly just for that. In the UK there were 245 deaths today, including nurses across the country.

Sanders has dropped out of the Presidential nominee race with brave messages and thanks. This leaves the uninspiring and often confused Biden against the always confused and objectionable Trump. Earlier in my diaries I predicted that COVID would be the end of Trump, but this is not universally shared. Colleagues in IR, such as Colin Wight, Lee Jones and Shahar see the Biden ticket as a disaster (I agree) and that Trump is a shoe in. We disagree today on Twitter. But I cannot see that in a month from now, with catastrophe everywhere in the US, that Trump will survive with any shred of credibility apart from the most rabid MAGA supporters.

Indonesia, with a population of 270 of 270 million, is unravelling in health and political terms. After basic denial of the likely impact of unchecked spread, there are reports that many of the provinces are now just refusing central government edicts. The quiet bog man act of the President looks wobbly to say the least. To date there are only 2,400 infections and 209 deaths in that country, but colleagues in that country are telling me it is way off the mark, sending links to huge numbers in a range of provinces, with Jakarta looking awful. The official death rate is 9% (which is very high), but many are suggesting it is higher still. One university report from Indonesia today predicts 240,000 deaths. Again, basic science denialism in government will cost many lives. Underlying the fears is the basic health system statistics reported by the ABC today:

‘The government is scrambling to prepare its health system to cope, but this looks like an impossible task. Indonesia has just four doctors and 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people, and less than three intensive care beds per 100,000. These levels are way below World Health Organisation or Asia-Pacific standards.’

Finally, the response to Trump’s attack on WHO has been really excellent, and from all quarters and many political leaders. Strong statements from the UN Secretary General, Macron, many African leaders, and so on. But nothing beats the incendiary press conference by Tedros, remarkable and devasting from a leader of an International Organisation: ‘We are losing lives every minute.
Why would anyone in their right conscious think about his personal attacks, ignoring the bigger challenge we are facing as humanity.’

He concludes by bluntly dismissing personal attacks on himself, clearly not a person to let racism or ad homs affect his consistent commitment to global health:

‘I can tell you personal attacks that have been going on for more than 2-3 months. Abuses or racist comments, giving me names...even death threats. I don’t give a damn.’

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