Sunday, March 29, 2020
When the definitive history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, the date January 20, 2020, is certain to feature prominently. It was on that day that a 35-year-old man in Washington state, recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan in China, became the first person in the US to be diagnosed with the virus. On the very same day, 5,000 miles away in Asia, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in South Korea. The confluence was striking, but there the similarities ended. In the two months since that fateful day, the responses to coronavirus displayed by the US and South Korea have been polar opposites.
Jeremy Konyndyk, who led the US government's response to international disasters at USAid from 2013 to 2017, frames the past six weeks in strikingly similar terms. He told the Guardian: "We are witnessing in the United States one of the greatest failures of basic governance and basic leadership in modern times."
In Konyndyk's analysis, the White House had all the information it needed by the end of January to act decisively. Instead, Trump repeatedly played down the severity of the threat, blaming China for what he called the "Chinese virus" and insisting falsely that his partial travel bans on China and Europe were all it would take to contain the crisis.
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