Anti-science remarks and actions lead U.S. to wrong direction

By Zhong Sheng


As another attempt of the U.S. to politicize the COVID-19 origin tracing, representatives from the U.S. misrepresented China’s rejection of the plan for the second phase of studies into the origins of COVID-19 put forward unilaterally by the WHO Secretariat as willful damage to virus tracing at an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly on pandemic preparedness and response on July 28, which met strong refutation from Chinese representatives.


By exhausting all the possibilities it can to smear China on the virus tracing issue, the U.S. has shown the world how crazy it can be to suppress science out of political purposes, despite the worsening pandemic situation at home.


COVID-19 indicators in the U.S. are rebounding seriously, with increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rising in almost all of its 50 states, according to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In contrast, growth in vaccination rates has obviously slowed down in the country.


It was predicted that the daily growth rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may reach nearly four times the current figure in the next four to six weeks with the fast spread of the Delta virus strain and the halt in vaccination rates.


The worsening pandemic situation has made American politicians more eager to find a scapegoat for their poor COVID-19 response. However, easing the pandemic should depend on scientific measures rather than political manipulation. If defaming China helped contain the virus, the U.S. wouldn’t have been trapped in a vicious cycle of “deterioration-alleviation-rebounding”.


Unfortunately, U.S. officials have failed to learn from their painful experience and roll out effective anti-epidemic measures for their domestic issues. The inaction of the U.S. government has in fact turned it into an accomplice of the virus and greatly disappointed the American people.


“We’re all incredibly depressed and in shock at how out of control the virus is in the U.S.,” said Michele Barry, director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University.


“With so much wealth and medical talent, they asked, how could we have done so poorly?” said an article on The New York Times. It is a question disturbing many American scientists and people.


The answer is pretty easy to get. It is because U.S. politicians have stood on the opposite side of science and taken anti-science measures that they have failed miserably to control the pandemic.


In the battle against the virus, American politicians have chosen political means as their weapon and made other countries their targets. Just like Don Quixote who attacked windmills with a spear, they picked the wrong weapon and the wrong enemy. No wonder the U.S. has to face defeat in fighting the virus.


From the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has been led to a wrong direction by various anti-science decisions and moves. The White House downplayed the epidemic situation by claiming that the pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus was no worse than the common flu and that the “risk to the American people remains very low”. Certain U.S. politician even suggested the possibility of an “injection” of disinfectant in a person infected with the COVID-19.


At the instigation of some politicians, various anti-science theories have become increasingly rampant in the U.S., voices of reason from professionals have been suppressed, and social bias has continued to grow.


As some people in the country were misled by politicians and media, ludicrous incidents have been reported one after another. Some Americans did wrongly drink disinfectant to prevent COVID-19, and some protested against “stay-at-home orders” and COVID-19 vaccination. “Coronavirus parties” even took place in many places, leading to cluster infection.


Noting that a historic epidemic is spreading, Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law and director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, pointed out that people must continue to be guided by science, as ignoring it can cause the loss of lives. Unfortunately, American public health experts are increasingly being sidelined, Gostin sighed.


Placing politics above science, the U.S. finds it difficult to implement any effective measures. Wearing masks in public places, a globally recognized effective measure to prevent the spread of the virus, has been an issue hotly debated by American politicians, who unbelievably turned a medical issue into a political issue.


What’s more ridiculous is that absurd theories regarding the COVID-19 and epidemic prevention and control measures, such as the claim that the metal strip in medical masks is a 5G antenna that causes brain cancer, could circulate on social media platforms in a major country with strong scientific strength as the U.S.


At present, as the pandemic situation rebounds rapidly in the country, whether people should be required to wear masks in public places becomes a political issue again.


Last year, following closely the steps of the federal government, many southern states of the U.S. reopened economy to help with presidential election campaigns, which caused the numbers of confirmed and hospitalized COVID-19 cases to soar.


In response to such anti-science moves, four former directors of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly wrote an article, which was published on the website of The Washington Post in July 2020, to criticize the U.S. government for politicizing anti-epidemic efforts and challenging science with partisan potshots, sowing confusion and mistrust at a time when the American people need leadership, expertise and clarity.


However, even today, avoidable tragedies are still happening in the country, which makes many public health experts in the country feel helpless.


During the recent meeting, U.S. representatives said that it is the responsibility of countries to correctly understand the origins of public health emergencies, and that this responsibility comes from the need to protect all people through better protection against future biological disasters. Their idea is absolutely right.


For Americans who are caught in a public health disaster, it is responsible for the U.S. to respond to the concern of the international community, invite scientists of various countries to the U.S. for research on COVID-19 origin tracing and avoid going further in the wrong direction.


If the U.S. government continues with its attempt to challenge science with politics, it will only get bogged down deeper in the mire of the pandemic. And for that mistake of their government, the American people will have to pay with their health and lives.


(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on China’s foreign policy and international affairs.)