The US heads into elections on Tuesday having become the first country to cross 100,000 cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in a day just recently, and with the seven-day average of daily new cases at an all-time high of around 82,000.
The US has seen in excess of 9.2 million cases, and around 231,000 deaths – both are the highest for any country – and it is evident that every aspect of the country’s response to the pandemic has been mismanaged. President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic – he himself was infected by the virus – has veered from denial to bluff-and-bluster to outrage over China, where the virus first emerged.
VOTING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC
- It isn’t clear if Covid-19 will affect the outcome of the US election, but what is clear is that the pandemic has already affected the electoral process, with a record number of mail-in ballots
It isn’t clear whether Covid-19, and the US’s response to it, will affect the outcome of this election; what is clear is that the pandemic has already affected the electoral process in the country, with a record number of mail-in ballots, the counting of which could mean a delay in results, prompting lawsuits – Trump has already said his team will challenge the process and his campaign has claimed (wrongly) that votes counted after November 3 are illegitimate or invalid. Trump and his supporters have also attacked the US’s top expert on infectious diseases Dr Anthony S Fauci, and over the weekend the President hinted that he may “fire Fauci” as a crowd at the rally he was addressing in Florida suggested he do. Whichever way you look at it, this is an election whose story, when it is told, will be inextricably linked to the story of the virus itself, its impact on lives and the economy, and the country’s response to it.
Interestingly, on Monday, even as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was going into self-quarantine after coming in touch with a person who tested positive for Covid-19, details emerged that the organisation may have mismanaged the process of tracing the provenance of the virus, which first emerged in China’s Wuhan. WHO’s initial response to the pandemic has already come under criticism for several reasons – including accepting Beijing’s narrative of there being no human transmission of the virus, delaying the process of declaring the coronavirus disease a pandemic, and dragging its feet on admitting that the virus could be transmitted by air – but it is likely the new revelations, in an article in the New York Times will prove even more damning.
WHO’S HANDLING UNDER FIRE
- The WHO may have mismanaged the process of tracing the provenance of the virus, according to an article in the New York Times, which is likely to prove even more damning for the UN body
These concern the contours of the investigation WHO will conduct into the origin of the virus, and the terms it has negotiated with Beijing, which has been its usual opaque self when it comes to sharing information on what really happened in Wuhan, and also initially opposed attempts for an international investigation. NYT reports details of the terms negotiated by WHO with China for its investigation in its Monday article, citing “documents, which have never been made public” that “show that WHO experts will review and ‘augment, rather than duplicate’, studies undertaken by China”. The article goes on to add that a key phase of the investigation, which will look for and interview early patients and infected people (going back to those affected in December), and also trace the “supply chain” of “wildlife sold at the Wuhan market”, will be “led by Chinese scientists, with outsiders reviewing their work remotely”.
The revelations are likely to increase criticism of WHO and Dr Tedros. The US has already exited WHO but continues to rail against the organisation; many other countries have asked for reforms in WHO, whose deal with China – which has recorded a total of 86,021 cases, a number the US is recording every day now — may well mean that the world never finds out how it all began.