How the Covid-19 Exposed Leaders Around the World
The development of the Coronavirus or Covid-19, has influenced a myriad of leadership decisions around the world in attempts to contain the virus. From strict government lockdown to conspiracies of a hoax, the different ways leaders across countries have chosen to respond to this danger has exposed the crucial difference between a strong and a weak leader.
The initial outbreak was traced back to one of China’s illegal wet markets. In a country where government control seeps into every crack of information displayed to the public, the outbreak was suppressed and censored to protect the image of the Chinese government. The new virus was first spotted by Dr. Li Wenliang, who reported a mysterious new SARS-like virus appearing in his patients and was arrested and punished by Chinese officials for speaking out. He later contracted the virus himself and died in early February, sparking a fury amongst citizens over the government’s regulation of information and free-speech. The stringent government control combined with a lack of information, silencing whistleblowers and lying to the people and the world, allowed for a virus to become an epidemic and turn into a pandemic.
Iran, a country with at least 230 deaths, the largest outside of China, had similar mismanagement by the government that led to a crisis. At key moments of the virus outbreak, Iranian officials failed to take proper measures to ensure the safety of its citizens. In February, the first coronavirus cases were reported, yet it was likely that the victims had been infected weeks earlier. Iran then held nationwide elections where thousands gathered to vote, in areas of close contact, where no one appeared to be wearing gloves or masks. Iran’s deputy health minister addressed the virus and declared things were under control, he rejected basic health protocols, such as quarantines, and made jokes on TV about proper health procedures. The next day, he announced that he himself, had contracted the virus and was under quarantine. President Hassan Rouhani, then tried to pin the spread of virus on Iran’s enemies and downplayed the risk of the virus. Finally, after the deaths of parliamentary leaders, Iran declared an emergency and shut down schools, universities and banned certain gatherings. The poor decisions made by the Iranian government allowed hundreds to die and the virus to spread drastically nationwide.
In the U.S, as fears continue to rise, officials have made crucial missteps in their response to the outbreak. Many Public Health Officials report, CDC’s first mistake was rejecting the test kits provided by the WHO, and instead opting to make their own, losing valuable time that could have been used to track the spread of the disease through the country. Weeks later, when the agency finally sent out their test-kits, many were found to produce inaccurate and inconclusive results. Furthermore, when CDC fixed their kits and shipped out new ones, they enforced strict criteria for those who could get tested; limiting the test to those with severe symptoms and recent travel to China. A decision made famous when a man experiencing corona-like symptoms, was initially refused testing as he did not fit the criteria. It was only when local officials sent a sample to Atlanta and the results came back positive, that they considered changing it. Many health experts express frustration with CDC’s response, “It must have been here this entire time, it’s just everywhere already.” Says an exasperated Dr. Helen Chu to the New York Times. The downplay of the virus by the government has frustrated many officials and citizens. With the likes of President Trump comparing the coronavirus to the seasonal flu, wrongly stating the number of cases will go down to 0, and wildly declaring that the virus was a “hoax” created by the media and the democratic party to ruin his campaign. When a republican lawyer tried to get Dr. Fauci to say that the media was exaggerating the dangers of the virus, he responded by saying the virus is dangerous and people should take it seriously, silencing the republican official. The lack of governance is frustrating for many citizens who believe the government should be taking the issue seriously and enforcing measures to protect the American people.
These feelings are exemplified when compared to countries like South Korea and Singapore. With speed being of the importance, South Korea was able to test over 140,000 people in a short space of time. Within a similar time frame, the U.S. was able to test just under 4,000. The Korean government implemented strict regulations, even creating drive-through testing for quicker results. “We are testing people on the biggest scale, at the fastest pace in the world, and disclosing the results transparently and instantly to public.” Said Moon in a speech. This urgency and deliberation helped bring the mortality rate of the virus to under 1% in South Korea.
Most impressive were the actions of Singapore with strict government crack-down. One of the first countries to impose travel restrictions and strict quarantine instructions, Singapore was aggressive from the start. Even resorting to punitive punishment to those who breached their quarantine. They created a software through which quarantined residents could report their location to the government, allowing authorities to trace the chain of transmission and break it, successfully culturing the novel virus within a week of Singapore’s first case. This aggressive tactic has allowed Singapore to remain without any deaths after the appearance of the virus.
The stark difference in reaction and action has allowed a deep insight to the importance of strong leadership in government and official positions. The inability to take control from governments of places such as Iran, China, and U.S has allowed the virus to spread and death tolls to rise. Misinformation and lack of transparency has caused nation-wide panic and confusion. Quick and aggressive action from nations like South Korea and Singapore has allowed a containment in the spread of the virus. Quick detection systems have increased chances of recovery from infection, and transparency of information has allowed responsible public decisions without panic or hysteria. Many can learn from their mistakes and mistakes of others to better prepare and control the spread of the coronavirus and any future pandemics.