Butterfly Effect: G-7? No, We Need the C-6
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The world needs a grouping of six of the most successful nations in the fight against the coronavirus to show the way.
President Donald Trump is right: The G-7 is broken. Earlier this month, he proposed expanding the group — currently consisting of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Japan — to include India, Australia, South Korea and Russia. “I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said, while postponing the group’s annual summit to September. “It is a very outdated group of countries.”
While other members of the group might disagree with Trump’s description, it’s true that the G-7 is a divided house, unable to build consensus or provide global leadership on anything, from the coronavirus to climate change. But while Trump is right with his prognosis, he’s wrong about the fix.
The pandemic has shown that all the wealth in the world can’t save lives. Four of the five countries with the highest death tolls from COVID-19 are G-7 members: the U.S., the U.K., France and Italy. The U.S. and its principal global rival China are both grappling with a fresh surge in cases after they lifted lockdown restrictions. Instead of an expanded G-7, the world needs what I’m calling the C-6, a group of six of the most successful countries against COVID-19, as example setters in public health management. New Zealand, Ghana, Paraguay, Mauritius, South Korea and Denmark fit the bill.
Rich and poor, these countries collectively offer an unmatched wealth of lessons for others, helping ensure we stamp out this pandemic and are better prepared for the next one.
Advanced economies with dense populations can learn from South Korea’s model of rapid testing and use of technology to trace those at risk of infection. It’s an approach that has helped the country limit its cases to just over 12,000, despite its proximity to China, the origin of the coronavirus.
Developed but more sparsely populated nations can benefit from the examples of New Zealand and Denmark, both of which imposed strict and early lockdowns and closed their borders. New Zealand has had only 22 deaths and 1,502 cases, while Ireland, another island with a similar population, has had more than 1,700 deaths and 25,000 cases. Denmark’s fatality rate is half that of neighboring Sweden, which chose a far more relaxed approach.
Mauritius is a poorer island nation, and as a tourist destination — the number of tourists who enter the country each year is larger than its population — is highly vulnerable to the transmission of COVID-19. It started airport screenings in January, which coupled with its strong social welfare policies — health care is free, and the government has distributed food and introduced wage assistance programs — has resulted in only 337 cases and 10 deaths.
Ghana’s use of drones to deliver medical supplies to remote regions, along with its early, aggressive testing — only South Africa has tested more on the continent — hold lessons for other nations in the developing world, especially in Africa. The country’s COVID-19 fatality rate is 0.5 percent — compared to America’s 5 percent.
In early March, before the virus had spread across much of South America, Paraguay imposed travel restrictions and a lockdown. Since then, its citizens returning from abroad have been required to stay in isolation camps until they test negative three times. The result? Paraguay is the model the rest of South America is talking about, with 12 deaths and fewer than 1,300 cases. Neighbor Brazil has the world’s second-largest caseload (more than 900,000 people infected) and more than 41,000 deaths.
Challenges persist, of course. On Monday, two people who landed in New Zealand from the U.K. tested positive. Only a week earlier, New Zealand had declared itself coronavirus-free. And one size does not fit all. But that’s precisely why a grouping of these nations — the C-6 — could collectively demonstrate the best examples of handling public health crises that different countries could learn from.
It is in moments of global crisis that new coalitions — either ideological or issue-based — emerge. The G-7 started as a group of four — the U.S., the U.K., France and West Germany — after the 1973 oil crisis. Over the following five years, Japan, Italy and Canada were included, and the G-7 became a collective of the West’s top leaders during the Cold War.
Today, friction — especially with Trump — marks the G-7. The 2018 summit will always be remembered by the now famous photograph of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders crowding around a seated Trump, trying to explain something to him. The G-7 is divided on Iran, climate change, trade and tariffs. When the group convened in March to discuss the coronavirus, other members shot down Trump’s demand to include a reference to the “Wuhan virus” in their joint communiqué.
Trying to expand an institution whose foundations are already crumbling makes no sense. Disbanding it does. In the C-6, the world would have an unlikely grouping primed to lead in this moment. It will never have the economic or military heft of the G-7. But it might do a better job of helping save lives.