US stuck in short-term fixes mentality may never learn lesson from pandemic: experts - Global Times

Joe Biden, US President

Joe Biden, US President

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(May 13): Looking back the past coronavirus ravaged year, an independent review panel said the pandemic, which killed more than 3.3 million people, was preventable. Learning a lesson from a catastrophe is never too late, especially for some parts of the world still engulfed by the pandemic, said a Chinese epidemiologist, lamenting that for some countries, especially the US, which still adopts short-term fixes and individualism in fighting the virus, it's a lesson they may never learn, Global Times reported.

The Swiss-based Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, set up by the World Health Organization, called February 2020 a "lost month of opportunity." Instead of preparing for a pandemic, many countries instead decided to use the "wait-and-see approach."

And due to a "lack of global leadership and coordination," with "geopolitical tensions and nationalism," the report said there was a lost opportunity to keep the virus under control.

Agreeing with the report, Chinese epidemiologists also noted that the pandemic could be avoided, or at least made much smaller, if certain countries, especially the US, could act faster and had done the right things the past year.

The US missed all golden opportunities at the early stage, which dates back to early January, when the US sensed the danger about the virus in Wuhan and took action to withdraw its citizens from the Chinese city. Yet it failed to take swift action back home, to prevent the viral from spreading, which made the country a "world coronavirus petri dish" and slowed international efforts in fighting the pandemic, said Zeng Guang, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Times reported.

In the face of an unknown disease, China has done what it can to inform the world and stop the virus from spreading at home. If the world learned from China, the pandemic could have ended by now, Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital who was a member of the WHO-China joint expert team in February, told the Global Times

After detecting cases of pneumonia of unknown cause, the Chinese government regularly informed the WHO, relevant countries including the US at the beginning of January 2020. 

But still, many countries did not listen and viewed it as a regional problem. The US became the country hit hardest by the COVID-19 since March 2020, with the highest number of confirmed cases, which was called by US media "a grim milestone."

The panel's report also urged fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. It said that high-income countries with a COVID-19 vaccine pipeline for adequate coverage should, alongside their scale, commit to provide at least 1 billion vaccine doses to the 92 low-income and middle-income countries of the COVAX, no later than September 1, 2021.

Chinese scientists again pointed at the US which is sitting on tens of millions of vaccines and reluctant to share with others. 

The US will share up to 60 million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as they become available, the White House said in late April, adding up to its promised sharing of about four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Mexico and Canada. In comparison, China had exported 240 million doses, making it the world's top exporter, earlier reports suggested.

Wang said that even after a year of catastrophe, the US learned nothing from the pandemic. "The country is still poisoned by its own short-term fixes and individualism; it was slow at first and tried to cover its own mistake by hurling mud at others. Now, the pandemic is slowing in the US, but it ignored others, even its close ally India's begging for help, to prioritize its own inoculation plan," said Wang, Global Times said.

"In a world where we are interlinked with each other, no one can detach himself from a pandemic, and the same applies to other areas," said the epidemiologist.