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Coronavirus and politics, are they mutually exclusive or not?

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Cautionary cries to stop politicising the global pandemic are reaching a cacophonous crescendo around the world, but in those very same cries, there is an inescapable irony, a touch of a disingenuous cheek, if you will. When politicking has navigated the very course of the public health crisis, from the beginning to where it currently stands today, at a point of total uncertainty and complete and utter chaos in some respects, it stands to reason to assume the public health crisis is anything but not political. 

Whether it is the politicisation of expertise, political point-scoring between opposing parties in government, or politically driven virus-mandated edits, politics is front-and-centre on every national front as it leads the fight against the novel coronavirus that is wreaking havoc around the globe.

Everywhere around the world examples of the politicising of the pandemic are evident. Most recently, the issue of the frightening lack of PPE for frontline staff in the UK was exacerbated when a top civil servant claimed the UK government took a “political decision” to not participate in an EU scheme to source medical equipment.

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Sir Simon McDonald of the Foreign Office told MPs that ministers were briefed on “what was on offer” but said “no”. [Source BBC News]. This response was rescinded almost immediately after it was made and in its place, it was offered that the EU’s invitation to join the scheme was lost as a result of “communication problems.”

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This comes after the controversial policy of “herd immunity” in the UK that seemed to be the ‘de jure’ policy until it wasn’t last month.

Across the pond, U.S. President Donald Trump came out with an announcement last week that he would be suspending funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) pending an investigation into its handling of the crisis. Claims that the WHO was “China-centric” and slow off the mark underscored the president’s criticism of the UN health agency, to which, the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded by warning against using the coronavirus pandemic to “score political points.”

It’s an election year in the United States and the coronavirus pandemic has provided the Democratic party ample ammunition with which to attack Donald Trump in an attempt to advance its bid for the keys to the White House. Increasingly, the 2020 US Elections demarcation lines are being drawn against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was hit the hardest by the coronavirus outbreak in America, was at pains in his daily briefings to reiterate that the virus was not about party politics, “There is no politics, there is no red and blue, We are red, white and blue!. So, let’s get over it and lead by example,” he said. 

Nevertheless, the escalating row between the state and the federal government has politicised the public health crisis, which would seem to be at odds with his claims. Cuomo along with neighbouring governors in the eastern region of the United States took a stand against the Trump administration with respect to how and when the economy would reopen, which threatened a constitutional crisis.

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Former vice president Joe Biden, who is seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the coming elections, has made a series of interviews criticising the Trump administration for how the crisis has been handled thus far. His dissenting voice is one of many in a growing chorus of criticism.

Former US President Barack Obama weighed in on the crisis while endorsing his chum Biden, claiming he was the right person to heal the nation. “Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery,” Mr Obama said. He also added that picking Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made.

This is a common political theme across the world where the coronavirus is making its presence felt. Political point-scoring is rampant while, at the same time, governments in power are at pains to absolve some of the responsibility by reiterating they’re following medical advice. 

Undoubtedly, this is an extraordinary crisis. What’s more, the seriousness of the health challenge posed by the novel coronavirus is not in question – only a total crank would do so. At the immediate, the main focus is (as it should be) on the devastation to individual lives everywhere, be it the wider public, frontline staff, care homes, celebrities or, even, politicians that are testing positive for the virus. As well, reporting on the darker side, the mounting fatalities as a result of the deadly virus, is rightfully taking precedence in the narrative that is unfolding before our eyes.

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However, when the very fabric of modern life has been ripped to shreds; when basic democratic liberties have been tossed out of the window, as people are forced to stay at home for months on end and with no end in sight; and when scores of people are headed towards the uncertainty of the dole queue with economic upheaval threatening to send seismic shockwaves around the globe for years to come, questions are bound to be asked about how the crisis was handled by politicians from the off. After all, decisions lie ultimately with them.

Whichever way the situation is sliced, politics and politicking is practically at its core. It’s in every decision, move and edit dished out by the government and only in hindsight, when the pandemic is well and truly done – in 18 months at the very least it seems, according to the doom-laden prognosticators – will its varied contours be mapped out in eye-catching detail.


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By SHK

Loves coffee; cute animals, and the world around us. I serve as the Editor-in-Chief and the President of the companies in which own Bazaar Daily News. Follow me on Twitter @HaleemKhane for more amusing updates. *I do not discuss my own political views for obvious reasons*

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