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Changing the COVID-19 narratives

Countries and national leaders are changing their COVID-19 narratives to escape responsibility for their earlier errors or inaction in stopping the spread of the dreaded virus. This battle of narratives will not stop the virus but will divert time and resources needed to stop the virus.

China, where the virus originated, informed the World Health Organization (WHO) on Jan. 22, 2020, that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. On the same day, the WHO disseminated this information to the rest of the world. Now, we know that China had clear evidence, more than 10 days before Jan. 22, 2020, of human-to-human transmission of the virus.

On Jan. 11, 2020, the CT scan of Dr. Li Wenliang, as well as of other Wuhan doctors, showed that their lungs were infected, confirming the human-to-human transmission of the virus. The Chinese police warned Dr. Li not to spread rumors about the virus. Dr. Li, now considered a hero in China, subsequently succumbed to the virus at age 33.

China, through its foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, asserted on March 12, 2020 that the virus could have been introduced by American soldiers who participated in the Military World Games held in Wuhan from Oct. 18 to 27, 2019. Later, Zhao Lijian backtracked, but it was too late. Chinese media had widely spread his assertion which has gained currency among the Chinese people in the absence of a free press in China.

On April 13, 2020, China banned the publication of any scientific study on the origin of the COVID-19 virus unless vetted by Chinese officials. This was a reaction to the publication on Feb. 15, 2020 in Lancet, an international journal, of the study made by several Chinese virologists that the COVID-19 virus originated from horseshoe bats native to Hubei and Zhejiang provinces. The South China Morning Post reported on March 13, 2020 that based on Chinese government data, the virus was spreading in China as early as November 2019. With the ban, China intends to control the COVID-19 narrative.

In the United States, President Donald Trump boasted on Jan. 22, 2020, “We have it totally under control.” He dismissed COVID-19 as a nuisance, declaring on Feb. 11, 2020 that the virus will “miraculously go away” in April when the “weather gets a little warmer.” On Feb. 28, 2020, he even called COVID-19 a “hoax” by the Democrats and media. Then on March 16, 2020, Trump suddenly reversed course and declared: “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

Here in the Philippines, President Duterte at the start belittled COVID-19. On Feb. 3, 2020, President Duterte told media, “I assure you even without the vaccines it will just die a natural death.” Mr. Duterte added: “China has been kind to us, we should show the same favor to them. Stop this xenophobia thing.” As the Senate found, Mr. Duterte’s policy allowed 536,205 Chinese nationals to enter the Philippines from Dec. 1, 2019 to Feb. 20, 2020.

Then President Duterte made a surprising claim on April 9, 2020. He told Filipinos, “I followed how COVID developed. I was the first among many to impose a lockdown because I was following the story.” He studied different sources, “including Facebook.” Was President Duterte really the first to declare a lockdown, which he imposed in Metro Manila starting March 15, 2020?

The honor of being the first to impose a travel ban and lockdown belongs to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. On Jan. 22, 2020, North Korea closed its land border with China and banned all foreign travelers from entering North Korea. Kim Jong Un did not mind that China was his patron and his impoverished nation’s principal source of food and fuel.

Many other countries declared a lockdown ahead of the Philippines: Italy, March 10; Denmark, March 11; Qatar, March 11; El Salvador, March 12; Norway, March 12; Ireland, March 12; Poland, March 13; Albania, March 13; Kuwait, March 13; and Spain, March 14.

National leaders should just concentrate on solving the COVID-19 crisis instead of covering up for their earlier errors and blunders in stopping the spread of the virus. That is the way they can make up for their mistakes and earn the respect of their people.

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Designed and developed by Sam Galope.