World leaders fighting corona and each other

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Bhbaneswar: Even as the world is struggling to combat the rapidly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), world leaders are not only going all out to combat the virus, but also fighting against each other.

For instance, the United Nations Security Council, a premier global forum, hasn’t yet held a session on the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world; European Union is trying to limit exports of key medical supplies to nations beyond its borders. On the other hand, the United States, led by President Donald Trump and his America First vision, is focused more on the virus’ internal challenge than its global impact.

Accusing China for the spread of coronavirus, Trump Saturday said, “Xi is a good friend, but it is unfortunate that he failed to inform the world when the country detected its first corona patient. It came from China and got out of control.”

Trump and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also held China,Russia, Iran and others for spreading disinformation about the virus.

Perhaps most glaringly, there’s been no significant international gathering of political leaders who are responsible for devising a global strategy to tackle the disease.

The closest thing to it came earlier this week when the leaders of countries in the Group of Seven (G7) – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – held a video conference call on the virus. This aside, Indian Prime Minister held a video conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders to set up a regional fund to combat the disease.

The approach of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau too has been regional. While announcing that the country was closing its borders to non-citizens because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, “We can still slow the spread of this virus. It is time to keep our people safe.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to the menace too was narrow. He recently told the media, “We can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I’m absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country but only if we take the steps – we all take the steps – that we have outlined.” Friday, Johnson announced that his government would boost the salaries of employees to help the combat the virus.

On the other hand, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been somewhat slow in taking an initiative to combat the crisis. In her first ever address to the nation Saturday, she asked all people over 70 or with compromised immune systems to stay at home and all non-essential domestic travel to be curtailed. She also had a stern message for New Zealanders who are not taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously, saying they should think about their friends and family and consider that their blithe approach could imperil people’s lives.

Back home, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday appealed to his countrymen not to be complacent and follow “social distancing” to avoid the virus. Modi has also appealed for a “Janata curfew” (public curfew) Sunday to express solidarity with the medical staff toiling to control the spread of the disease.

His earlier effort to create a regional emergency fund for the SAARC nations was applauded by the member countries as well as the United Nations. But Pakistan provided a spoke in the wheel by raising the vexed Kashmir issue at the video conference aimed at launching a concerted effort to contain the disease.

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