The largest democracy and the most powerful nation in the world have both been left disrobed of their pageantry and power by COVID-19, shamefully failing their citizens and revealing their disintegrating moral façade.
It’s said that the measure of a person is not what they do when things are going well, but rather how they respond at times of adversity.
One of the many lessons brought to bear by COVID-19 has been our ability, as societies around the world, to respond to our own challenges while maintaining the connectedness that has come to define us as a global community. True character has been revealed.
Many local and national responses have demonstrated the character and grit expected of decent and just societies.
But there have also been colossal failures. Two such failures have been by the largest democracy, India, and the most powerful nation, the United States. Both have revealed their fractured values.
China first reported the detection of an unknown strain of virus to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Dec. 31. On March 11, WHO declared the outbreak to be a pandemic and Europe was declared the new epicentre, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, beyond China.
India finally placed the country, a fifth of humanity, under a 21-day lockdown on March 24, 84 days after China reported the outbreak to WHO and 54 days after India’s first case was reported on Jan. 30.
India had temporarily suspended almost all visas and closed the land border on March 13, almost 71 days after China reported to WHO and 25 days after its own first case of COVID-19.
It would appear that India’s self confidence in responding to the virus was misplaced and perhaps even negligent. India has perhaps the worst slums and most marginalized populations, so it should have been far more concerned and prepared for the potential damages.
On March 7, Delhi was still reeling from the capital’s worst religious riots in decades, with 53 known dead, corpses still being discovered in drainage ditches, and hundreds of wounded languishing in understaffed medical facilities. It was clear even then that India’s medical system wasn’t prepared to respond to a large-scale disaster.