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Far Right Mind-set Obstructs Anti COVID-19 International Cooperation

Iqbal Khan

The Guardian has reported that the US stayed away as world leaders agreed to take collective action on development and distribution of Covid-19 vaccine. Video meeting is seen as global endorsement of World Health Organization (WHO) and sign of Trump’s isolation on world stage. “Global leaders have pledged to accelerate cooperation on a coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatment and medicines across the globe”. The pledge was designed to show that wealthy countries will not keep the results of research from developing countries.
The meeting also represented WHO’s endorsement in the face of Trump’s decision to suspend its funding and condemn its leaders as subordinates of the Chinese Communist party. The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We are facing a common threat that we can only defeat with a common approach. Experience has told us that even when tools are available they have not been equally available to all. We cannot allow that to happen.”
With ultra-right thought dominating the global political power structures throwing up populist leaders like President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this was the worst time for a pandemic to prop-up. But the worst has happened. Trump is focussing more on ridiculing China than countering Covid-19 within the US. And Narendra Modi is denying medical cover to Indian Muslims suffering from Coronavirus.
Logic and pragmatism dictated international cooperation is the need of time. Earlier the UN Secretary General António Guterres has aptly put it: “To prevail against the pandemic today, we will need heightened solidarity.” “But is this what we are witnessing? The short answer is, not really, because more disharmony than ‘solidarity’ has been on display. Many countries tend to turn inwards and act on their own”.
Exceptional global cooperation and a collective response will be needed to negotiate multiple challenges like: threats to public health, economic recovery, food security, looming recession and unemployment. COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions worldwide, with Europe and the US the worst-hit regions.
The World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a video conference on April 20 that the world must act together on a national and global scale to overcome the pandemic. He warned that the “worst is yet ahead [of] us”. He reiterated his calls for global solidarity and national unity and warned that if this does not happen, more people will die. “Without these two, believe us — the worst is waiting for us. Let’s prevent this tragedy. This is such a virus that many people haven’t understood it yet,” he said. “This virus has new types of contagion habits. It is very contagious just like the flu. It’s a serious killer like SARS and MERS. It has dangerous combinations.” He also denied US claims that the WHO hid information from member countries. President Trump has withheld WHO’s routing funding on flimsy accusations.
Nevertheless glimpses of international cooperation are also of display. Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump held a telephonic conversation on April 23 to discuss counter coronavirus pandemic measures. They reviwed the challenges being faced by the international community, its implications on global economy, and ways to mitigate its impact. Prime Minister Imran conveyed sympathies and condolences on the loss of so many precious lives in the US due to coronavirus. He also highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. He underlined that the government had put together a US$ 8 billion package to support the affected people and businesses.
Imran Khan thanked President Trump for the US support in the IMF, World Bank and other fora, for providing necessary fiscal space to Pakistan and help in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. Pakistan has received an emergency loan of $1.39 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank has agreed to double the size of its loan for strengthening social indicators in Pakistan to $500 million. President Trump reassured of US support to Pakistan in the efforts to combat Covid-19 including by making available ventilators as well as in the economic arena. He offered to send latest rapid testing machine for Covid-19.
China represents an enviable role model for helping the countries. After combating the pandemic at home, it has promptly reached out to most effected countries, across the globe. Pakistan has received substantial help from China in the form of critical items. China has also releases $ 30 million for the WHO, to offset the effects of withholding of its funds by the US.
Trump’s best friend Modi started off with a besieged mentality by banning all Covid-19 related medicines and support materials. Trump had to, proverbially, put his thumb on Modi’s jugular vein to get pre-ordered items.
Covid-19 is fast becoming a game changer for many countries. America is seeking help even from small developing countries which have, so far, been on receiving ends.
Pakistan has voluntarily decided to provide to the US and other friendly countries an anti-malaria drug, known as chloroquine phosphate or chloroquine, touted as a potential cure to Covid-19 to help these countries fight Covid-19. Pakistan has taken the decision to help the friendly countries in their time of need. Pakistan has surplus stock of around 40 million [chloroquine] tablets and sufficient raw material to produce the drug in great number.
One million chloroquine tablets each will be dispatched to Saudi Arabia and the United States, half a million each to Turkey and Italy. In addition to this, 5 million will be dispatched to the United Kingdom, 700,000 to Kazakhstan and 300,000 to Qatar. Leaders of various countries, had expressed interest in the drug in view of its effectiveness against Covid-19.
Egypt, one of top US aid recipient, has also sent aid to the US. Egypt flew a plane of medical supplies to the United States. Crates in wrapping read in English and Arabic, “From the Egyptian people to the American people”. Cargo included 200,000 masks, 48,000 shoe covers and 20,000 surgical caps among other supplies.
More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including six already in clinical trials. Seth Berkley, the chief executive of the Gavi vaccine alliance, a public-private partnership that leads immunisation campaigns in poor countries. He said it was critical that there was not a repeat of the experience in 2009, when the H1N1 vaccine did not reach developing countries until very late.
The heavily multilateral tone of the pledges during WHO sponsored video meeting contrasts with many countries’ immediate reaction to the outbreak, when countries, like India, banned the export of their medical equipment, closed borders and even tried to steal equipment from one another. The degree of cooperation over the vaccine research has also been patchy at best. The meeting agreed to appoint two new special envoys to lead global cooperation on vaccine research and to help ensure equal access to any successful vaccines. Coronavirus treatments should belong to the whole world, aptly said the UN secretary general.

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