Novel coronavirus (109) BBC: A problem unlike anything else Trump has faced

10 March, 2020

Extrtacts below. Full text here:


In the midst of a health emergency, what is sacrosanct for anxious citizens... is reliable information, a consistency of message from the government about the risks and how they can be mitigated, and that information flow will be based on the best available scientific evidence. No other factors should intrude.

In the US, as the administration has scrambled to mount an effective response, the messages have been mixed. Not for the first time, the president has been contradicting his own advisers and medical experts...

From the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump has sought to play down its seriousness and overestimate America's preparedness. He said the spread was under control. It isn't. He's said that the number of cases may soon go down to zero. They haven't, and it was not the advice he'd been given. He suggested that people with symptoms should go to work if they felt well enough. They shouldn't.

He has also argued that he didn't want the benighted cruise liner, the Grand Princess, because it would add to the total of coronavirus cases in the US - when it's not his fault they were on a cruise liner... His concern from this seems not to be preserving the safety of American citizens (the thing he swears an oath to do at his inauguration), but keeping a lid on the numbers by keeping those with the virus - literally - at sea.

Last Friday, he went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - the epicentre of the fight against the coronavirus - wearing a Keep America Great campaign hat, and said that there were tests available for every American who needed one. There aren't...

Take Mr Trump's tweet on Monday morning as Wall Street was in freefall. "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"

But while common influenza is most certainly a killer, experts estimate that the coronavirus is markedly deadlier. So at the same time as the president is tweeting this, officials are on the airwaves saying the crisis is real, that Americans need to respond, and it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better...

But there is something else that needs to be addressed about America and its preparedness for dealing with something like this - and this has nothing (well, more or less nothing) to do with Donald Trump and his administration. Yes, his gutting of the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council might now seem rash. Ditto, eliminating the US government's $30m (£23m) Complex Crises Fund...


Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: