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The global response falters as viruses spread, and Trump buzzes out

WASHINGTON – After Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded a “virtual” summit on Wednesday with top diplomats from six other countries, striking a note of solidarity with US allies as the world faces a common enemy: the coronavirus pandemic.

“I made it clear to our G7 partners – especially to our friends in Italy and the rest of Europe – that the United States is still determined to help them in every way possible,” Pompeo told reporters at the Department of Foreign Affairs after his private video conference with foreign ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

But the Trump administration has not advocated an international response to the global disease threat – nor have other world leaders, experts say.

“It’s been very chaotic,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and head of global health science at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

After the G7 meeting actually a The German news outlet reported that the seven foreign ministers could not agree on a joint statement because Pompeo insisted on using the “Wuhan virus” to describe the pandemic, a move that was said to be deliberately provocative against China. Pompeo essentially confirmed the report Thursday.

“Different countries take different approaches,” Pompeo told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday when asked about the report. “My theory is that we should always be correct about how we identify something. This virus began in Wuhan; I have referred to it as the Wuhan virus.”

During other international crises – such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the global economic meltdown in 2008 – world leaders joined forces to meet the threat of disease and economic collapse. But the response to COVID-19 has been very “state-centric,” Huang said, with most affected countries facing inward.

All over the world, individual governments are competing to secure scarce medical supplies from a strained global supply chain, closing borders with little or no notice to their neighbors and lobbing verbal breadth that threatens to deepen disagreement.

Pompeo has reiterated Trump when he criticizes China. At Wednesday’s news conference, the Secretary of State swerved to appoint the US’s global generosity to attack China for what he has termed a “cover-up” of the first outbreak.

“The Chinese Communist Party poses a significant threat to our health and lifestyle, as the Wuhan outbreaks have clearly shown,” Pompeo said, refusing to use the official medical name – COVID-19 – despite objections from Chinese officials and public health experts saying that it can lead to stigmatization and attacks on Asians.

Pompeo noted that China was the first to resist international aid. Officials suppressed reports of the outbreak and tried to punish doctors who raised alarms. Xi Jinping’s government refused to allow US medical experts to go to Wuhan, the first episode, and abolished the Trump administration’s offer of financial aid.

“We tried … from the opening days to get our scientists, our experts on the ground there so that we could start helping in the global response to what started there in China, but we couldn’t do it,” Pompeo said Wednesday.

Chinese officials have since been more open, sharing the virus’s genome sequence and other important data. And some experts fear it is counterproductive to choose a fight with China, especially as the country dominates the global supply chain for sought-after medical products.

“We should partner with China. This is not a good time for us or for China to say ‘Let’s have a mock match,'” said Gayle Smith, who served in the National Security Council and other top positions in the Obama administration. we are interconnected and dependent, it is not a political position. It is a statement of fact. ”

Smith worked in the White House when President Barack Obama fought the outbreak of the Ebola, and she said he asked other world leaders to campaign for the disease.

“He called pretty much every leader on the planet to say ‘Here’s what we do. We have so many doctors, so much money, “Smith recalled. Then he said,” “What are you going to do? How much money can you put in? How many healthcare professionals? He really pushed everyone.”

As the corona virus continues its steady march, Smith noted, scientists, epidemiologists and other experts share their research and other information about the virus across borders.

But, she added, “at the level of global political leadership, there is a really big absence of the kind of international cooperation needed.”

Although the researchers continue to cooperate as they compete to develop a vaccine, Huang said he does not foresee it happening on the political front.

He fears if and when a vaccine becomes available, those countries that have the capacity to manufacture it will “first meet the needs of their people and those countries that do not have the capacity will have to wait. This will probably cause more death and more suffering. “

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