In a world filled with anti-China sentiment, it is no surprise that the emergence of COVID-19 and its origins in Wuhan, China have left the state open to an insurmountable tide of criticism, most notably for its approach to the handling, treating and limiting the spread of the virus.
Anti-Asian racism is no doubt on the rise as the search for blame is relentlessly pursued, however it is when a comparative approach regarding both the actions of ‘Western’ and ‘Non-Western’ states is taken that the reality can be seen: Western Nations are more at fault for not just the spread of the virus, but also the extent to which is has caused death and turmoil, altering our daily lives in ways unfathomable a few months ago.
Since labelling COVID-19 a global pandemic, the World Health Organization has repeatedly reminded that in order to limit the impact of the virus, four steps must be followed. As put simply by Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, “to suppress and control the epidemic, countries must isolate, test, treat, and trace”. Countries such as Vietnam, China and New Zealand have all followed such measures to an admirable extent, and above anything else have proven that taking such measures can be extremely effective; Vietnam, for example, has been hit with two waves of COVID-19 and is still yet to see a single death from the virus. Unfortunately for citizens of countries such as the United States, the UK and a whole host of European nations, similar actions were either not taken, or too little was done too late.
Above all, the rhetoric pushed by Western Nations in the early stages of pandemic has proven to be particularly harmful, Boris Johnson arrogantly bragged about likely shaking hands with Corona-virus patients, Donald Trump referred to the virus as being less severe than seasonal flu, whilst Brazil’s president has argued that the virus is a media trick to cause hysteria. In taking a relaxed approach to the virus, the nations listed amongst many others that are now facing systemic collapse allowed for the virus to freely spread amongst citizens through not initiating lockdowns, whilst also allowing for global travel with little to no health checks for those arriving into, or leaving respective countries. Put simply, this is how the virus has spread at such a rapid rate. Comparatively, China announced a lockdown of the Hubei province followed by adequate practice of the steps taken advised by the WHO, resulting in limited deaths, cases and ultimately the end of pandemic within its borders.
Of course, it is important to remember that little was known about COVID-19 as the virus spread throughout China. Nonetheless, a yet unconfirmed “pneumonia of unknown cause” was reported by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as early as December 2019. Despite a lack of knowledge regarding the virus, France confirmed its first cases as early as January 24th yet didn’t implement lockdown measures until March 17th, the United Kingdom followed a similar course by not announcing a lockdown until March 24th, whilst admitting that it had long passed the stage of being able to contain the virus, instead opting to delay the spread. Other European countries have acted in a similar manner. However, the worst offender in this regard is the United States, with over 800,000 cases announced and a national lockdown blatantly refused by Trump, forcing individual States to act accordingly.
Despite the facts, blame is continually placed on China due to the origins of the virus, though with little over 80,000 cases in China compared to over two and a half million globally, it is easily suggestible that COVID-19 is now far removed from its origins, and that pressing this rhetoric prevents progress. Constant global criticisms against China continue to mount, though China frequently assists Western Nations through aid, sending doctors to advise healthcare systems and leading the world in research to ensure that COVID-19 can be best dealt with in the long term.
Whilst it would be suitable to mention a severe lack of contact tracing, testing, treatment and recognition of severity in full detail, this article instead focuses on the spread of COVID-19, and how Western Nations have neglected to act in a timely manner. Pandemic is not an excuse for racism, nor is it an excuse to throw more pieces of wood onto the anti-China fire. There is a clear line between government criticism and racism.
The ultimate cost of Western neglect in the face of this pandemic is human life, and perhaps next time Trump reinforces the idea of a ‘Chinese virus’, the true human cost of his, and other nations neglect should be considered before racist rhetoric.
By Elliott Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org). Elliott Chapman is a politics and international relations student; political activist. The opinions expressed here are his own.
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