Special Briefing: How Coronavirus Is Killing Globalism
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because working together could save the world.
By Dan Peleschuk
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What’s happening? With more than 83,000 cases across 50 countries, the vast majority still in China, coronavirus seems unstoppable. Over the past week, it’s roiled global markets and stirred fears on three continents about whether local authorities are properly prepared for an outbreak the World Health Organization now says “has pandemic potential.” More than 2,800 people, most in China, have died.
Why does it matter? Officials have responded in a variety of ways, from shuttering schools and quarantining ships to canceling events and blocking travelers from virus-hit countries. But with nations focused on their own interests, there seems to be little global consensus on how to tackle the outbreak. Worse still? It’s sparking more sinister impulses in some places, fueling discrimination and xenophobia. Top health officials say global coordination is now more important than ever — advice the world doesn’t seem to be heeding.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
Far and wide. No longer just China’s problem, coronavirus has hit South Korea, Italy and Iran with particular force in recent days — where around 2,300, 900 and 400 cases have been confirmed, respectively. It’s even reached into the upper echelons of power: Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar became the country’s seventh official to test positive for coronavirus, while Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga has been quarantined after returning from a state visit to China. Some, meanwhile, are wondering whether the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will fall victim to the outbreak (though organizers say it’s still on).
It’s the economy, stupid. Sure, said one Italian official, “it’s not cholera or the black plague” — but the outbreak’s financial effects are particularly worrying. As global supply chains face potential collapse, and consumer spending slumps as folks stay home, stocks are sliding: World markets have experienced their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, erasing some $6 trillion in value over the past week. Other startling economic indicators include reportedly surging sales of household disinfectants like Lysol and soaring prices for face masks.
Each to his own. As fears grow in the Middle East over Iran, the regional coronavirus center, Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq have all closed their borders with the Islamic Republic. Across the European Union, which is largely predicated on the free movement of people and goods, a growing chorus of nationalist-minded politicians are seizing on the crisis to call for countries to do something similar. Experts say, however, that such moves will do little to fight the spread of the illness. Meanwhile, in coronavirus-free Ukraine last week, angry protesters opposed moves to return and quarantine Ukrainians evacuated from Wuhan in central Ukraine. And Saudi Arabia has halted travel to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina.
Come together … right now. But how can the world join forces to stop the spread? For one, experts say, countries must disseminate and share reliable data. This isn’t easy for heavy-handed regimes like those in China and Iran, where state control of information to preserve power is the norm. But underreporting cases and deaths can have far-ranging and fatal consequences. Step two: Heed scientific advice. The EU’s health and food safety commissioner recently underscored the importance of decision-making “based on risk assessment and scientific advice.” In the U.S., both steps will be put to the test after it emerged that the White House — already criticized for contradicting top health officials — will control coronavirus-related information more closely. But whether it’ll be fact-based, or simply politically motivated, remains to be seen.
WHAT TO READ
Italian Churches Go Into Quarantine, by Alessandra Bocchi in The Wall Street Journal
“If Italy’s public-health outlook is precarious, so is its financial situation.”
Cults and Conservatives Spread Coronavirus in South Korea, by S. Nathan Park in Foreign Policy
“The infected Shincheonji members then spread coronavirus by sharing closed-off spaces, refusing to be quarantined, and hiding their membership.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Countries Across the World Take Precautions as Coronavirus Spreads
“While most people in Daegu are stoic [and] calm, the worry is undeniable.”
Watch on ABC News on YouTube:
Is This How We Die? Coronavirus, Continued
“The coronavirus is more diverse than the Oscars — everyone gets a chance.”
Watch on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Watching and waiting. Already a livestreaming hub, Wuhan, China, has sprouted a new range of “at-home” reality shows amid the virus lockdown. Celebrities and ordinary people alike are streaming footage of themselves at home singing, performing various challenges and cooking.
- Dan Peleschuk