Why does COVID keep steamrolling Policy?
On November 24, 2021, South Africa reported the first case of the B.1.1.529 variant of Covid. More commonly known now as Omicron, arguably the least known Greek letter has become an overnight household name. So much so that OED will probably name it word of the year if government policies continue to be a shambles in the face of this the ever mutating Hydra that is SARS-CoV-2.
Countries in the EU, currently the worst affected region anywhere in the world, immediately slapped bans on southern Africa. And then promptly discovered cases within their own borders. The bans are excellent for the optics they provide. With the stroke of a pen, bumbling leaders such as Boris Johnson (well-known ambassador to Peppa Pig World), and the woefully unprepared EU governments are able to present a façade of swift action.
I call bullshit. These are the same governments that blatantly disregarded expert advice to keep borders open with China. The obvious reason? Money and optics. China isn’t South Africa and the entire southern Africa isn’t China. There is little South Africa can do but bear the unfair brunt, and for what? Following the science. While the richest nations in the world complacently lined their pockets with unprecedented liquidity and injected themselves full of excessive vaccines, ignoring COVID-19 as if it was eradicated, South Africa took the painstaking effort to sequence what could signal a turning point in the continued battle against the virus. Without early warnings from South Africa, Europe, and the rest of the world likely would’ve been caught completely cold footed in the face of this potentially immensely threatening new variant.
South African Health Minister, Joe Phaahla expressed disappointment with developed nations taking hasty (and likely useless) measures against specific nations.
Why is this a policy failure?
The 2008 banking crisis that spread across the world was quite efficiently dealt with in the aftermath given its unique challenges, never-seen-before nature. The recovery, handled mostly by bankers and economists pushing policy led to a coherent and measured response. Unfortunately, the response to the pandemic has been lead by shining beacons such as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro. The very best of the best political leaders.
Yet the pandemic has been a series of policy flops and disasters, especially for the developed world. I observed earlier that the West typifies the quote;
All that glitters is not gold
Policy failures have doomed Europe and USA to repeated waves of COVID even as India, South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and several “Eastern” economies emerge from the pandemic (the heat map tells it all). The West has higher vaccine uptakes. What explains this anomaly then?
Policy is a bitch. Renowned personalities have tried and failed to tame policy and attempt to shape social order. Dictators crash and burn, Communism obliterates itself repeatedly, Economics defy logic.
Donning the hat of political virtue signalling, the Western governments are pursuing ineffective travel bans, ignoring the hard work of testing, tracing and containing the variant. Hundreds of thousands could die. Millions even. Is this what our leaders are for?
Masks still aren’t mandatory in a majority of public settings or hospitality settings in the UK. The Prime Minister (and Peppa Pig aficionado) claims to have implemented travel restrictions to slow down the spread and “protect our borders”. From what, may I ask? The enemy is within, good sir, not without.
They’re all Pirates
Western leaders harken back to the times when they could rattle their sabres and have their foes cower beneath the almighty power of Economic Sanctions. The virus doesn’t care. The only way to fight the virus is with sound, scientific policy. Sadly, that takes effort that our leaders have neither ability nor political will to execute.
We’re In This Together™
We’re in this together, you and I, and the world. Until you find a new variant that I was too lazy to look for. Then you’re out. You’re a pariah. Oh, by the way, I’ll be taking those vaccines for my third booster shots. Also, you know the loan we demanded you take from the IMF to develop your cocoa plantations to ensure we can make a metric shit ton of “Swiss” chocolate? Yeah, I’m gonna need that back. At 15%. Oh, oh, oh, I’ll also trigger an international inflation by flooding the market with $20 trillion of currency out of thin air. Stay strong! Cheers!