Could we have prevented the coronavirus pandemic?
- A ‘pandemic’ refers to a disease that has spread geographically and affects a whole country or the entire world.
- ‘Coronavirus’ is a type of virus that existed before COVID-19. COVID-19 specifically names the virus of the 2020 pandemic.
- COVID-19 originated in China and information surrounding the impending epidemic was suppressed by the CCP.
- Past outbreaks, such as SARS in 2003, and other “zootonic diseases,” such as HIV, bird flu, and swine flu, have emerged from China due to their wet markets and common consumption of wild animals therein.
In the many thousands of years in recorded world history, COVID-19 is by no means the first pandemic. It is the global consensus of experts that pandemics cannot be prevented or stopped completely once they start spreading. “You don’t stop a pandemic,” affirms Lone Simonsen, a professor of population health science at Roskilde University in Denmark.
There are only preventative measures to lessen and delay the scope of devastation caused by these pandemics. Even travel bans are not completely effective against pandemics like COVID-19. This is evident from the devastation of Italy which banned flights to and from China on account of coronavirus on January 31st. It still suffered from one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Europe.
WHO strategic action plan 2006–2007 for pandemic influenza states that once a disease reaches the level of transmission, there is no way to stop the spread completely. The global community doesn’t have any policies in place to contain the epidemic. The only intervention measures include reducing human exposure, strengthening the early warning and containment systems as well as capacity building by investing in vaccination research.
The trappings of modern society and global interconnectedness enable the easy pandemic transmission as well. The greater urban population density and frequently used long-distance transport facilities increase the number of people who might infect others unknowingly. Lastly, modern agricultural practices have driven vast numbers of animals within proximity to humans. This increases the risk of pandemics, as many major diseases usually originate in animals. Examples include HIV (chimpanzees), Ebola (bats), SARS (civets or bats) and coronavirus (pangolins or bats).
Although media coverage has questioned calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” there is no doubt over where the virus originated—Wuhan, China. When it comes to prevention, Chinese doctors, specifically ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, tried to raise awareness around this unidentified virus as early as December 2019. Instead, local officials deemed Wenliang a whistleblower and forced him to sign a statement denouncing his work. Even after the outbreak affected thousands and President Xi Jinping intervened, the Chinese state-run media still downplayed the narrative and controlled information regarding the virus. With strong propaganda, censorship, and citizen restrictions, it makes sense why much of the pandemic in Europe and Asia was reactionary rather than preventative.
Half-way across the world, America dealt with its own trouble in transparency. Government representatives, namely Senator Burr of North Carolina and Senator Loeffler of Georgia, came under fire for selling-off millions in stocks right after private briefings were held in regards to the coronavirus. Although this story raises a great question about insider-training, I believe this also emphasizes the delay in public awareness individuals have faced over the course of this outbreak.
Stories about South Korea’s “Patient 31” and a New Jersey family ravaged by the coronavirus outline how contagious and dangerous this virus is. Quarantines, lockdowns, and shelter-in-place tactics are all ideal reactionary responses. Being transparent, however, is the ideal preventative measure; transparency is crucial in raising awareness and preventing outbreaks and there just wasn’t enough of it when it came to COVID-19.