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Hammer or scalpel? Conquering COVID-19

20 3 4

The COVID-19 pandemic that emerged out of China has challenged all countries and regions where it has spread, including Japan. The question for most as the sense of crisis builds is what is the correct approach to take to mitigate an outbreak that could force the collapse of health care systems, result in unprecedented peacetime loss of life and unleash an economic tsunami.

China used a hammer approach by locking down the entire city of Wuhan and Hubei province. The human and financial cost was staggering, but the first wave of COVID-19 seems to have been controlled. Going forward, it is unclear if China can repair the damage done to its own economy, especially as it now will be faced with a demand shock — a lack of consumers to buy the products that its manufactures are producing.

Perhaps more serious are the reputational costs associated with the initial decision-making process that caused a global health crisis and economic quake. Credibility and trust have been shattered and they will be difficult to regain even as China has engaged in a global diplomatic health campaign to help countries battling the pandemic.

In contrast to China’s hammer approach, the U.S. approach under President Donald Trump was initially one of hubris and complacency resulting in the rapid spread of the virus throughout the United States. Despite warnings by Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro as early as Jan. 29 of the “coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans,” the U.S. president’s judgment has resulted in an unprecedented health and economic crisis that will possibility result as Navarro wrote in his Feb. 23 memo — “a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1.2 million souls.”

Like China, the reputational costs for the U.S. in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak will be dear. It has........

© The Japan Times