The world woke up on Friday 2nd October 2020 to the biggest news of the Covid era when the President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump, announced that he and his wife were going into quarantine on account of a Covid19 infection.
Mr. Trump, by that event, enrolled himself into a compact league of world leaders who have been criticized for their skepticism and the lethargic approach towards curbing the novel coronavirus.
Since health experts and citizens have wondered if the fatality rate was not enough to awaken these leaders, considering the devastating impact of the deadly virus, DUBAWA takes a sweeping review of the global landscape, exploring the claims of the leading lights of this movement of COVID-19 deniers that have now expanded the meaning and content of what the coalition of nine global institutions [WHO, UN, UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNAIDS, ITU, UN Global Pulse, and IFRC] have defined as infodemic, that art of unrestrained propagation of misinformation about the pandemic.
The global attention to the pandemic is a point of serious worry because, as the nine global institutions noted their 23rd September 2020 statement that, “The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive, and connected.”
To that extent, the actions and omissions of global leaders can play a significant role in making this campaign succeed or fail, as the movement once stated: “At the same time, the technology we rely on to keep connected and informed is enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine the global response and jeopardizes measures to control the pandemic.”
This is partly why the world worries: “Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, while the virus continues to thrive.
“Furthermore, disinformation is polarizing public debate on topics related to COVID-19; amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations, and threatening long-term prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion” the global institutions said.
Here, therefore, are the four key world leaders as we trace the trail of time on their tepid approach to coronavirus and how they fell victims to their own disbelief.
President Donald Trump of the USA: the chief doubter
On Thursday, President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus after claiming “it will disappear”, later ratifying the use of Hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 and further accusing journalists of deliberately exaggerating the virus.
President Trump’s carefree approach toward the virus was apparent. First, he failed to formulate a national testing strategy, refused to wear a facemask (even after some of his aides tested positive), then he wafted with the idea of injecting patients with bleach, maintained that the virus “affects virtually nobody” at one of his mass-attended campaigns and even mocked his contender, Joe Biden, at Tuesday’s presidential debate, saying “He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I have ever seen.”
Even when more than 200,000 Americans had died from the virus, Mr. Trump described the coronavirus as an “invincible enemy” but this is not the case now, as just 32 days before the US elections, Mr. Trump is now required to be quarantined from what he once deemed as invincible.
Mr. Trump was meant to go on campaign trips and face Joe Biden for the second presidential debate but with the sudden turn of events, he is likely to do none. Mr. Trump’s contraction of the virus is hoped to improve his concern towards his approach to the pandemic, alongside several of his aides who seem to share his anti-science view of the virus.
During the presidential election, most of Mr. Trump’s staff did not wear masks in the auditorium. Even Hope Hicks, a senior aide to the President, who was present at the debate, also tested positive. This clearly illustrates the validity in words of Miles Taylor’s, a foremost Trump critic, who tweeted, “We should ALL wish for our President and first lady to recover. But this is also a serious national security concern and an alarming upshot of the White House’s lax approach to this deadly pandemic”.
Mr. Trump questioned the existence and the severity of the coronavirus, threw sarcasm at some of the measures meant to curb the spread, accused journalists of overhauling the virus, and even suggested unconfirmed remedies as a cure for the virus. In the end, he could not save himself and had to admit his becoming a fallen victim to the virus. At 74, the President is considered more vulnerable to the virus but no one can tell the severity of Trump’s situation until a few weeks from now.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil: the Bad
Yet, it is not only Mr. Trump who had unpopular and dogmatic views about the virus. He might have given some voice to it, but there were some world leaders who also shared his ideologies and frequently mocked the severity of the disease. President Jair Bolsonaro carries similar views as Trump over the Virus. He frequently tagged the virus as a “mild measly cold” and even when Brazil was rated as the second most hit country by the virus, Mr. Bolsonaro still attended rallies, went round without facemask, thus encouraging his supporters to disregard masks.
Alarmingly, with over 144,000 coronavirus related deaths in Brazil, Mr. Bolsonaro dismissed the threat of the virus as mild, and in July, when he contracted the virus, he kept on promoting the hydroxychloroquine pills as a remedy for the disease against the guidance of the general health practice that tagged the pill as ineffective to the virus and potentially hazardous.
Little has changed even after Bolsonaro’s recovery because on September 22, during his address in the UN virtual General Meeting, Mr. Bolsonaro still accused some media of “politicizing” the virus and planting fear and panic amongst the population. Though he also claimed to have spent over $400 million towards COVID-19 vaccine research and development, he still told reporters “that no one can force anyone to get a vaccine.” Mr. Bolsonaro seems to tie his recovery from coronavirus to Anti-malaria drugs and how mild he thought the virus was.
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus: the Ugly
Like Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro, Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus who has been in power since 1994 perceived the virus as a case of media exaggeration, even tagging it as a mere “Psychosis” that is targeted at shifting people’s reality. Unlike most countries and even his fellow ideologues who later placed a lockdown on their nations, Mr. Lukashenko refused to impose a lockdown and proffered vodka and saunas as a remedy for the virus all through the wave of the pandemic. Even when neighboring countries went on total lockdown, Belarus remained open, and Mr. Lukashenko remained defiant.
Even when cases of infected persons continued to soar in Belarus, he said “it’s better to die standing than life on your knees.” After contracting the virus in July and his eventual recovery, Mr. Lukashenko said “I lived through the virus” but still remained indifferent as regards the virus, rather focusing on how to maintain his decades of authoritarian rule that is facing protest from civilians.
Boris Johnson of Britain: the Repentant
Borris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Britain who also dismissed the idea of lockdown and social-distancing and perceived the virus as a passing circumstance had a change of paradigm after contracting and battling the virus in March. Unlike Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Bolsonaro, Mr. Johnson spent 3 days in an intensive care unit and had to hand over power to his deputy. After his recovery, he took a different turn, appreciating the National Health Service, letting out that it had “saved his life, no question.”
The British Prime Minister, on a return to his office in April, preached for what he once stood against. He cautioned people to take the measures seriously and brought tight restrictions to curtail the influx of the virus and encouraged people to work from home if they can.
Though Britain has been considered the worst hit in Europe, with more than 56,000 reported deaths, the case seemed to have faired marginally after Mr. Johnson’s recovery.
Nevertheless, some of these leaders seem stubborn even after their experience as victims of the virus, their ordeal verifies one thing, ‘the existence of the virus’. And it should also be noted that many leaders and government officials have succumbed to the virus, like the case of Late Abba Kyari and and Late Senator Ajimobi in Nigeria.
Coronavirus is still ravaging communities and though some leaders have taken good measures for their nations, many are still stuck in controversy, risking the lives of their citizens in the process. Time has, however, proven that not even the leaders who once ignored and shunned the virus were immune. Hence, the prevalence of the virus can be argued but not certainly its existence or even its severity.