In Switzerland when we first heard reports of the coronavirus in China, we only half listened, but when our neighbor Italy announced outbreaks, we were all ears.
The close proximity and community spread of a life threatening virus has Europeans on edge. Most citizens held their fears in check until the Italian outbreak, then within hours illness knocked on our doorstep. Our anxiety stepped up a notch.
Surrounded by Italy, Austria, Germany, and France, hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders daily to work in Switzerland. At my former work place, the International School of Geneva, 140 different nations are represented, many of whom live across the French border. Exposure is inevitable.
Suddenly news flashed across Europe in different languages as nations grappled with how to best handle the crisis and contain outbreaks. For the first time ever, Switzerland immediately cancelled its world famous Geneva International Motor Show and forbid public events of more than 1000 spectators including popular soccer and hockey games. France limited gatherings to less than 5000. Both countries immediately shut down schools and shops where clusters of coronavirus broke out. Leaders of European countries reacted quickly, calmly and sensibly.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Trump’s initial reaction was to minimize its impact. At his campaign rally in South Carolina, he proclaimed that the coronavirus was the new “Democratic hoax”. By promoting “fake news,” he only added to public confusion and mistrust.
COVID 19 is so new, much remains unknown: incubation period is uncertain and asymptomatic patients become silent carriers. Countries close borders, quarantine citizens, and try to curb public panic.
Medical experts have trouble understanding and predicting outcomes. Even so, international researchers are moving forward so quickly that vaccine might be possible within 12 to 18 months instead of 10 to15 years.
With medical personnel overworked in every country and the public’s anxiety rising, we need to get the facts straight. Worldwide public health and safety should be paramount on any leader’s agenda especially a leader as powerful as the US President.
Fortunately the highly respected Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is now serving as a member of the White House coronavirus task force to provide facts and clarify misconceptions.
Global health experts like our friend, Dr. Jonathan Quick, former chair of Global Health Council and long term collaborator of theWorld Health Organization (WHO) have been solicited by news agencies around the world such as ABC .
His book, The End of Epidemics published in 2018, predicted the present day scenario.
“Jonathan Quick offers a compelling plan to prevent worldwide infectious outbreaks. The End of Epidemics and is essential reading for those who might be affected by a future pandemic―that is, just about everyone.”―Sandeep Jauhar, bestselling author of Heart: A History
As the WHO scrambles to predict outcomes, produce tests and develop vaccines, we need to listen to the voices of those who know best.
For a world leader to put a personal spin on such a deadly and disruptive global crisis for political leverage is dangerous. Political differences must be put aside, scientific knowledge must be shared and transparency between countries must prevail to contain a world epidemic with such dire consequences.
Regardless if we live in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East or Australia it behooves us all to remember pandemics don’t discriminate.
It is in humanity’s best interest to adhere to the collective advice of the world’s best scientific minds.