Wednesday, April 01, 2020

It’s easy to blame Trump...

He's Trump. He’s more than asking for it.

Yet in the USA, and Mexico for that matter, there’s an underlying structural issue that the executive is feeding off: federal government. Trump sits atop a patchwork of responses to the pandemic, even if his own, typically ineffectual, bullying, duplicitous and deflecting approach is the most visible.

He won’t universalise the restrictions, he says, because half the cases are in New York. No point in shutting down the flyover states, especially the red ones. But then he says the national epidemic will peak by the end of April. The stated policy infers that he is still mainly talking about New York, but rather abruptly, the bigger picture is smothering the detail.

Anyway, it’s hard to be shocked when Trump bats away a probing question by calling it ‘nasty’. Far more gobsmacking was the lie delivered this week by Mexico’s pandemicist-in-chief Hugo López Gatell, an epidemiologist of some repute.

When asked if President López Obrador should be concerned that a politician he’d been meeting with lately had tested positive, he categorically discounted the possibility that infected individuals without symptoms can pass it on.

Last week’s New Scientist led with an article titled People Without Symptoms Are Covid-19 Spreaders. Anyone who’s been tuned into coronavirus chatter for the past month or so wil know that this is not such an outlandish claim. Maybe Hugo knows better, but the political rationale for his assertion was all too apparent.

Today it has emerged that Vladimir Putin finds himself in a similar position to Mexico’s AMLO. The medic he appointed to coordinate Russia’s response to the virus, and with whom he has been repeatedly pictured at desks, in lifts etc. has picked up the bug. Putin’s response was delivered in his familiar reassuring style, such that any nearby hack would be happy to move on to the next question.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about the interchange between the journalist and López Gatell in the Palacio Nacional, was the way she allowed the expert to shut her down so aggressively. Those that take on the Donald have become used to trying to stand their ground, parrying his veering misrepresentations, until he simply turns away.

AMLO’s underlings may need to adopt a less prickly approach to the press if the mother of El Chapo Guzmán tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 later in the week.

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