Historically, it’s not unusual for countries or political rivals to put aside their differences and confront a crisis on a united front. World War II and the 9/11 attacks are examples that quickly come to mind. Recently, however, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has been used to divide nations and harden political lines within individual countries. 

The Wall Street Journal points out the current global divisions of COVID-19 have left the world less prepared for future pandemics. The article focuses on the fallout of political tensions between the United States and China before the coronavirus-based health crisis. The seeds of distrust were sown initially by the Trump Administration over concerns about trade and security, as well as Donald Trump continually labeling COVID-19 the “China Virus.” Although the pathogen first surfaced in Wuhan, China, the way the ex-POTUS describes the condition undoubtedly created more tensions. Additionally, the ex-president’s denial and his “playing down” of the seriousness of the disease to The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward undoubtedly played a role leading to a sort of cult of virus denial.

Once the pandemic hit, according to The Journal, China had its share of responsibility for inaction. TrialSite reported early on that once the virus emerged, China “muzzled” healthcare workers who tried to warn the world about the virus, and the Chinese government restricted “what information could be made public.” In fact, one doctor, a hero, was arrested and ordered to not make any noise about the unfolding crisis. The Chinese physician from Wuhan died shortly thereafter purportedly from SARS-CoV-2.

As Trump continued to blame China, Beijing slowed down its cooperation with the West but that lack of cooperation from the Chinese would have likely occurred regardless. A year later, the Chinese allowed the World Health Organization (WHO) access to the Wuhan Lab where the virus “allegedly” was created and released. The article states the Chinese didn’t share all the data with the WHO. This lack of “transparency” caused concern in Washington about biosafety at the Wuhan Institute. After President Joe Biden came into office, he ordered U. S. intelligence to investigate the origin of the virus, but because China didn’t share any information, there were no concrete results. China subsequently closed its borders to scientists from other countries so no information about the origins of the virus could be obtained, adding to the mystery of corona. The WHO mission for America was led by Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit that served as a conduit to direct U.S. taxpayer money to coronavirus research in China. Substantial data points indicate these funds were approved by Dr. Anthony Fauci and used, potentially, for a gain of function research.  

The “mystery” of the virus has led to divisions in the U.S. which have been co-opted by politicians and political actors and used to enhance and extend their platforms. The mandates imposed by the Biden Administration inflamed opposition and galvanized the president’s opponents. As reported in The Daily Beast, COVID-19 is only the beginning of the lack of political trust. The article points out, if another wave of the virus hits the U.S., there will be no end to blame and the conspiracy theories.  

However, The Wall Street Journal does make the point that even with divisions, in some ways, the world is better prepared for future viruses. “The pandemic has yielded new, faster ways of making vaccines and therapies to curb new viruses. But that’s not all it takes.” Had there been more cooperation between countries, political parties, and politicians, perhaps the spread of the disease and the accompanying panic would have been less.

As reported in TrialSite News, political affiliation does affect an individual’s approach to COVID-19. Before the pandemic fully hit, China had been in talks with other nations about sharing information. Once the COVID-19 pandemic blossomed and the political blame game started, cooperation ended. What if collaboration was worldwide?  What if politicization and monetization were supplanted by a cooperative effort to transcend the globally spreading disease, including aggressive use of treatments targeting early care? And what about a commitment to cost-effective, available treatments? Imagine how many lives could have possibly been saved had nations worked together instead of blaming each other.

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