Wang Wen: Politicians lambasted for response to virus


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Wang Wen: Politicians lambasted for response to virus


Source: China Daily    Published: 2021-08-16

With science cast aside, conflicting messages rampant in US, study finds

Political partisanship, disregard for science and inadequate responses have contributed to the failure by the United States to contain COVID-19, experts say, as a new wave of infections sweeps the country.

The resurgence has also sparked fears of more unvaccinated groups becoming vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant and of more children falling ill as schools reopen.

"The US politicians have been playing finger-pointing games instead of protecting people," said Wang Wen, executive dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China in Beijing. "The pandemic is the enemy but the US has left itself wide open to it. The US has done nothing good in fighting the pandemic."

Last week a report issued by three think tanks in China concluded that the US has been the worst performer in containing the pandemic.

"Objective facts have shown that the US is well deserved to be the world's No 1 anti-pandemic failure," the report said. "It went from being against science and common sense to covering up the truth and politicizing the fight of the pandemic. …Society has been torn apart and racial tensions have intensified."

According to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the US has had the most COVID-19 infections of any country, with more than 36.6 million confirmed cases and more than 621,200 deaths by Sunday.

Many factors explain the US' abject failure to contain the pandemic, experts say, many suggesting that a lot of the causes for the poor performance find their root in political hubris-politicians in Washington concerned more about their political interests than science and people's lives.

At loggerheads

Since the early days of the pandemic, the way it has been handled has been sabotaged by political partisanship, with issues that have had politicians and the public at loggerheads including mask mandates, keeping social distancing and vaccination.

Wei Nanzhi, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that from the outset the pandemic became something on which politicians could score political points rather than an opportunity for the nation to rise as one to a great challenge. "It's obvious that the US political parties are putting their own interests above those of people's lives," Wei said.

Even as the country faces rocketing COVID-19 infections driven by the Delta variant, political gamesmanship has intruded, the latest venue being schools.

Mask mandates and proof of vaccination are compulsory on some campuses, while on others they are prohibited by local law as states adopt starkly diverging approaches.

Politically inspired edicts such as outlawing mask mandates seem to invite disaster, the American College Health Association said.

Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a US Department of Health and Human Services office, said on Wednesday in an interview with CNN that many lives would have been saved had the federal government "listened to the science".

A model analysis by disease researchers at Columbia University has found that more than 54,000 lives could have been saved by May last year had the US government's control measures been adopted two weeks before its measures were announced on March 12.

"There are fresh lives behind the numbers," Wang said. "It's a slaughter that is no different to that of World War II."

Tom Frieden, a former CDC director, urged the US to learn the lessons of the pandemic and strengthen public health in the country and globally. "If we don't rise to the challenge we'll continue to be just as vulnerable to the next pandemic."

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