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Fighting the Virus is a matter of survival Instead of politics

Basharat Hussain

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Corona virus has spread in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. The global confirmed cases have reached nearly 1.7 million Worldwide. World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Corona Virus out break as a Global pandemic. This means the epidemic has become a common challenge for all the human beings. However the incessant smearing of China by some of the western governments and media at the onset of the out break can be deemed another kind of epidemic. I have summarized some typical Negative arguments, targeting China in international public opinion.

On January 31, US Republican Senator Tom Cotton, Claimed on his twitter that corona virus is “bio weapon” leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. However his argument is barely endorsed by the main stream western opinion makers. Experts from renown Universities and institutions across the world said the conspiracy theory is untenable. A bio weapon experts from MIT points out, the corona virus does not meet the pre-requisites to be referred as a bio weapon. Because a good bio weapon needs to be highly lethal but with minimal communicability. The international acclaimed medical journal The Lancet also issued a joint statement, signed by 27 top global health scientists, the statement states that corona virus is originated from wild life, in fact the origin of COVID-19 remains unknown. As it should be left at scientists disposal to make the final judgment. On February 03, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “China is the real sick man of Asia”. The Chinese were historically referred as the “sick man of Asia” by the western powers. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China 1949, the country’s public health care has improved dramatically, Malignant infectious diseases such as smallpox and schistosomiasis were quickly eradicated. Chinese not only built a better health care system for itself but also sent medical aid teams worldwide to support the battle against epidemics such as Ebola. On February 02, Der Spiegel, a Germany’s largest weekly magazine released its latest issue featuring the “Corona Virus” on the cover. Beneath the coronavirus was the headline “ Made in China” in big yellow letters while adapting yellow peril theory a form of xenophobia.

However in the era of globalization human civilization has shifted from old “Zero-Sum game” paradigm East vs West yellow vs white. When facing Public health emergencies, no race can stand above. It is only through cooperation that human beings can defend the epidemics.

On February 20, Real Clear Politics, published an article saying the Chinese government during epidemic is reminiscent George Orwell’s 1984. The following reasons explain why such an opinion can find a market in western society.

First people tend to believe stories they were familiar with, most people know the story of 1984, but not many in the world known much about China. Western media uses stories familiar to the westerns, to draw a comparison, Secondly this is a result of a reports catering to the western audience. For western audience “ a terrible China”. Who would not want some sensations and excitement in a mundane life? Third the west is blinded by their ideologies.

At the beginning of this out break, some western media outlets, such as Atlantic believed that the “Western democratic system” is better at fighting the virus. New York Times criticized the China’s lockdown as hurting people’s liberties, however facts have proved that the corona virus outbreak that befell in Wuhan, can happen anywhere in the world.

Fighting the virus is the matter of survival, rather than politics. The biased reports from west have impeded the rest of the world from discerning the severity of the epidemic. Misleading people in the west to believe that the democracy can somehow make them immune from the outbreak. Along with the outbreak comes the stigmatizing of china, since March 16, US President Trump started to use the raciest rhetoric “Chinese Virus” to COVID-19. Later he use this phrase multiple times during his press conferences.

The WHO has officially named Novel Corona Virus as COVID-19 as early as February 11. According to the medical rules the virus should not involve geographic locations, animals, individuals or groups to avoid discrimination. Despite wide criticism, Trump claimed this is not discrimination because the virus came from China. A photo from Washington Post reporters revealed that Trump has manually crossed out the word corona and replaced it with Chinese in his briefing note. His speech fueled the xenophobia and hate speech towards Asian Americans. Trump’s “Chinese Virus” phrase appeared after the US stock triggered “circuit breaker” for the third time within 10 days, and the number of confirm cases in US sky-rocketed. The Trump administration’s constant shifting blames to China is a visible attempt to conceal its own failure in containing the epidemic in the US.

ON March 24, growing criticism, Trump announced to stop using “Chinese Virus”. For the past few months China did what’s necessary to protect its people’s lives, its efforts and sacrifices were repeatedly questioned, smeared and defamed. China instantly swung into action to the lockdown of Wuhan on January 23, at the outset of the Virus outbreak, Built makeshift Hospitals, closed public places such as schools, markets, parks and cinemas and used necessary means to trace the infections. WHO experts has affirmed China’s achievements in containing the epidemic.“If it weren’t for China’s efforts, the number of cases outside China would have been very much higher” WHO. But their remarks were distorted as “favoring China”. “The coronavirus crisis is raising questions over China’s relationship with the World Health Organization”, By CNN.

As a situation in China improves Europe has now emerged as the new epicenter of the pandemic. Western nations finally realized they are equally vulnerable to the virus and began to emulate China’s footsteps in enforcing lockdown and building makeshift hospitals. At the same time, China is offering help within its capacity to the world. Virus transcends borders, it doesn’t care about ethnicity, wealth, or political ideologies. It’s vital to stop stigmatizing and blaming each other and join hands to fight against COVID-19 our common enemy.

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New Social Compact

The Need for Humanitarian Leadership and Global Solidarity during COVID-19

Dr.Anis Ben Brik

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The coronavirus pandemic is a systemic human development crisis, affecting individuals and societies in unprecedented ways. It is also generating new humanitarian needs.

According to UN estimates, half a billion people, or 8% of the world’s population, could be pushed into destitution by the year’s end, largely due to the pandemic. If so, then the fight against poverty would be set back 30 years. The International Rescue Committee said last week that the virus could cause 1bn infections and 3.2m deaths in 34 fragile states, including Afghanistan and Syria.

The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises highlights Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti among the countries most at risk of widespread famines caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to World Food Programme estimates, the number suffering from hunger could rise from 135 million to more than 250 million.

The International Labour Organization reported last week that almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market)out of a worldwide 2 billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion are in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of humanitarian leadership and global solidarity. On April 2, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including Qatar, calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including by exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.”

Solidarity is a matter of both morality and long-term vision. Failure to pass this test would leave deep psychological wounds in left-behind countries, paving the way for all manner of extremism and new crises—from pandemics to conflicts—that would threaten everyone. By rallying around science and solidarity today, we will sow the seeds for greater unity tomorrow.

The coronavirus does not respect borders. Nor does it discriminate. It brings into stark view the imperative for humanitarian leadership. This crisis has revealed variations in state capacity to contain the spread of the virus.

Many governments either lack adequate capacity to respond, or in some cases, the necessary political will to provide for their citizens. For example, the most developed countries – those in the very high human development category – have on average 55 hospital beds, over 30 physicians, and 81 nurses per 10,000 people, compared to 7 hospital beds, 2.5 physicians, and 6 nurses in a least developed country.

One can readily imagine that if the COVID-19 response has been dire in the developed countries, it is going to be infinitely more devastating for governments that have only a fraction of the financial and medical resources.

Despite the blockade, the State of Qatar stands out as one of the most actively involved in global humanitarian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qatar has provided significant humanitarian aid to 20 countries so far, including assistance in the field of medical supplies, building field hospitals, and contributing USD 140 million to multilateral organizations working to develop vaccines or ensure the resilience of healthcare in other countries.

To date, Qatar has sent substantial aid to China, Iran, Palestine, Italy, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Nepal and Rwanda. In addition, the representation mission of the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in Turkey has recently distributed supplementary food aid to around 110,000 families at internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in Idlib and Aleppo Governorates, northern Syria.

In the age of COVID-19, protecting the most vulnerable among us is not just a moral imperative but also an urgent public health objective. The health of one is the health of all.

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New Social Compact

COVID-19: More than a Biological Weapon

Sabah Aslam

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While the biological virus is a common enemy of humankind, the political virus born out of certain American politicians is equally detestable, for it has damaged the global anti-epidemic cooperation and impeded the long-term development and progress of human society. The virus in the political world has done even more damages than the virus from the natural world.

What are the sources of this political virus then? It is rooted in the selfish interests of a handful of American politicians. Not long ago, the American media revealed that senior US officials had handed down documents to a number of federal agencies requesting all federal employees to speak consistently about the pandemic and blame China for everything. The document was practically a confession of the US government on how it implemented the buck-passing. As 2020 is America’s election year, some American politicians are so crazily intent on fabricating all kinds of fallacies about “holding China accountable,” attacking the WHO for being too “China-centric,” and even criticizing some state governors for poor epidemic response, all to keep the epidemic from affecting the election. Such unscrupulous “political shows” reflect how desperate these politicians are to cover up their misconduct both in the decision and execution of their response, with a purpose of deflecting the public grumble.

The political virus is a tumor stemming from racism. After the WHO and the scientific circle named the novel coronavirus COVID-19, some American politicians deliberately ignored the new nomenclature and insisted on calling it the “Chinese virus”. It is an international consensus not to label a virus with a region, state, or nation, which is also a universal principle that the international community should uphold. Yet these American politicians are determined to defy the world by intentionally steering public opinions in the direction of racism and xenophobia, and practicing racial discrimination. The use of the term “Chinese virus” for coronavirus laid bare the absolute absence of common sense, conscience, cooperative spirit, and morality in those politicians infected with the “political virus”.

The political virus derives from the Cold War mentality. A small group of American politicians have been obsessed with political maneuver and slandering China, especially the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been busy fanning flames and spreading rumors. The “political virus” ingrained in their mind is the hotbed of all their vicious intentions. They have the wishful thinking that accusing China of the so-called “mask diplomacy” would offset its influence; vilifying China’s aid to help build the African Center for Disease Prevention and Control as an attempt to “steal genome data” would drive a wedge between China and Africa; and egging other countries to claim reparations from China would pin the “original sin” of the virus on the country…. These whimsical whoppers are nothing but Washington’s attempts to curb China’s development.

The political virus is rooted in the obsession with “great-power competition.” The US government labeled China and Russia as the biggest challenges to US national security in its latest National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, and declared the reemergence of great-power competition. During this global crisis of COVID-19, certain American politicians, going out of their way to make “ammunition to win the great-power competition,” have gone all out to oppose China in every possible way and tried hard to cover up America’s embarrassment of ineffective epidemic control measures by smearing China, rather than focus on preventing the virus spread. As we can never wake up someone pretending to be asleep, perhaps the best way is to leave him alone and “not even turn our eyes in his direction,” as the famous Chinese writer Lu Xun once said.

The disease has seeped down into the skin and should be treated before it gets worse. The world is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and all countries need to join hands in defeating it. We advise the American politicians with ulterior motives to stop the misdeed and change course before its too late. We also call on the international community to stay on high alert and take strong measures to prevent the American political virus from spreading to do more harm to the global anti-epidemic efforts and the normal international order.

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New Social Compact

Spanish Flu and COVID-19 – are there lessons for the world of work?

Dorothea Hoehtker

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many look to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918/19, which killed an estimated 50 million people, or 2,5 per cent of the global population. Are there lessons to be learned from the world of work perspective?

The Spanish flu did not start in Spain but was called that because Spanish newspapers were the first to report about it. From its presumed origins in a World War I military camp in the state of Kansas, United States, it washed over the world in three waves. The first, mild one in spring 1918, was followed by a second, more deadly outbreak between September and December 1918 and a third one at the beginning of 1919.

All countries were hit, although unequally. Samoa lost 22 per cent of its population, Spain 12,3 per cent and the US 6,5 per cent. In colonial India, the flu killed 6 per cent of the population, amounting to 18 million, roughly the number of victims of the First World War.

Similar patterns, similar measures

COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu both have struck a highly globalized and interconnected world where viruses easily travel on ships, carriers and trains, or – today – on airplanes. As 1918 was the last year of the First World War, the movement of troops and refugees was a significant factor in spreading the virus. In 2019/20, business and leisure travellers have been the main carriers.

The only measures to control the spread of the disease back in 1918 just as in 2020 were better hygiene, quarantine of the infected, “social distancing” and shutting down much of public life. This implied massive restrictions of civil liberties and paralysis and disruption of the economy.

In 1918/19 as well as today, the poorest and most vulnerable, who often lived in crowded conditions, with low paid work and little or no access to health care, were much more exposed to infection. They also suffered most immediately from drastic lock down measures, and were at a particularly high risk of losing their lives and their livelihoods.

Different impacts

The Spanish Flu happened at the tail end of the First World War, in a context of widespread chaos. The response to the crisis was uncoordinated, mostly local, with a high mobilization of civil society groups.

In industrialized nations, the economic impact was rather short lived. Eventually, the economic boom of the “Roaring Twenties” got many people back to work.

In other parts of the world, such as India and sub-Saharan Africa, the consequences were deeper and longer lasting. A shortfall in labour affected harvest and sowing. Food prices spiked, causing widespread famine and an increased flow of migrants into urban centres. This led to social unrest, strikes and rebellion against colonial powers.

What we can learn

Although the world is very different today, we can learn from the events in 1918/19 that a pandemic increases poverty and inequalities; this carries a social and human cost, which can have long term destabilizing effects.

Today, states have more possibilities to react, including through fiscal and labour market policies and tools, and the opportunity for international cooperation through the United Nations and their international partners.

Policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis need to address inequalities and ensure that poor, rural and marginalized communities are not forgotten. ILO’s labour standards such as Recommendation No. 205, on employment and decent work for peace and resilience, provide the necessary framework.

The global economic and labour market problems arising out of the COVID-19 crisis suggest looking also at the economic crisis of the 1930s and reconstruction policies after World War II.

As a response to massive unemployment and destruction, the ILO promoted comprehensive social protection, including health care, and a variety of employment promotion policies based on the conviction that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.

These past responses can be an inspiration for recovery policies which have to be fair and – compared to the past – much more sustainable.

ILO

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