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SCOTT TAYLOR: Put aside petty political squabbles in COVID-19 fight

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Wednesday. - Reuters

You'd like to imagine that in the face of a global threat of the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic that humankind would be unified into a common defence.  

Just like the plot of the classic 1996 Hollywood action movie Independence Day, where planet Earth is threatened by invading aliens. In order to defeat the threat all pre-existing squabbles between nations are set aside.  

It's a Hollywood production, so naturally it's Americans who create the first dent in the alien forces’ armour. However, it is then up to the Russians, Chinese, British, French, Germans, Israeli and every other modern air force (sadly with no reference to the RCAF) to collectively eliminate the alien fleet of spaceships.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not a sophisticated enemy from outer space, but it is a deadly threat to the human race. It sees no artificial borders, nor does it discriminate by race or social status.

The latest data puts the disease’s lethality rate for those infected at 1.4 per cent, fourteen times more deadly than the common influenza. While these are not doomsday apocalyptic numbers, if the projected potential infection rate of 40 per cent to 70 per cent of the population materializes, that will result in the death of tens of millions worldwide.

Despite the potential severity of the crisis there has been no sign of our world leaders finding common ground or unity. Instead we have the U.S. president deliberately stigmatizing the disease as the “Chinese virus” in both his speeches and social media posts.

The World Health Organization strongly recommends against naming viruses after specific locations to avoid creating undue fear and racism. Donald Trump petulantly maintains that he is deliberately using the term “Chinese virus” because he “didn’t appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them.”

In response to Iranian claims that the U.S. military was responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to it as the “Wuhan virus” and accused the Iranians of helping to spread the disease. “They know the truth: The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice,” Pompeo stated at a press conference.

Going far beyond this exchange of accusations, the U.S. is using the health crisis to maximize political pressure on Tehran by increasing sanctions against Iran.  

With its health care system already struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic due to the strict economic sanctions imposed upon it since 2018, Iran appealed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5 billion in emergency relief funds.  

Trump is using the U.S. veto to block the funds from IMF.  

Similarly, sanction ravaged Venezuela also requested $5 billion from the IMF to help them deal with the COVID 19 pandemic. As of 17 March there were 33 reported cases in Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the entire country to enter into quarantine.  

The reason the IMF denied Venezuela's funding request was that there was “no clarity” among IMF member states as to who is that country's leader. The elected Maduro maintains firm control over Venezuela, but the Canadian-led Lima Group of 14 states recognized Juan Guaido as the president of our choice in January 2019.  

As a result of this impasse the poor people of Venezuela will suffer the ravages of COVID-19 without the requested relief funds.

In Canada, the enormity of the challenge posed by COVID-19 led to the almost unprecedented political non-partisanship to enable the Trudeau minority to announce an $82 billion national emergency expenditure with virtually no opposition.  

Our international leaders should realize that you cannot close borders to a virus that is already expanded to all corners of the world.  

This is not the time to punish regimes by denying their people financial assistance to battle COVID 19.

We have a common enemy. Together let’s defeat this thing.

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