What can we learn for the future from the global crisis of the century, the corona pandemic?
The WHO failed to alarm in time early 2020 and was influenced by Chinese state propaganda. It must not be dominated by dictatorial elements any more. It must radically reform itself and again recommit to the truth, real independence and credibility. That is what all democracies and the Gates Foundation should now work for. Our health must not depend on manipulated institutions in which we can no longer fully trust. The diplomacy of democracies must be more confident and more consistent in its control mechanisms. A new credible, confident and reliable director-general should be elected. We also need a broad and critical investigation, independent of WHO, into the causes of the pandemic so that we can avoid further disasters of this kind in the future. The democracies need an independent early global warning system as well, which no external actor is able to manipulate.
How should responsible planning and preparation for a pandemic have looked like before Corona broke out in late 2019?
Based on all the studies and precautionary measures, any expert and politician would have been able to draw up and implement a list of actions needed for the two phases of preparing and activating civil protection following a virus alert. This objective could have been accomplished with more creativity and effectiveness. Here are some elements:
- More influence in and at the same time greater independence from the WHO, which has failed with Sars, Ebola and now Corona and is acting too politically and too cautiously. Robust self-confidence vis-à-vis China as a coordinated Western action alliance of America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and other democratic countries. Dedicated teams for on-the-ground testing, including in China. An agreement between China and the U.S. and the European Union to protect against pandemics.
- Expanding the global early warning system against pandemics envisaged by George W. Bush and set up by Barack Obama. Involvement of the EU, NATO and other countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea or Japan. Collection and international data exchange regarding infected persons. Development of useful apps and computer programs. Comprehensive international data exchange, joint global large-scale exercises and prevention measures. Publication of an annual report and discussion in parliaments.
- Precise guidelines and a detailed international WHO master plan on quick action, when, by whom and where in the event of an outbreak. Every day counts. A rapid response in the case of an outbreak is the main factor for effective containment. A global WHO ban on the main sources of animal-to-human transmission – especially bats, lesser cats and conifers – in all wildlife markets, especially in China. A strict two-year international WHO inspection of all wildlife markets and virus research institutes.
- A detailed, internationally coordinated manual for each country outlining the measures required for containment. Entry bans and controls. Registration of all suspicious cases via mobile phones, SMS and apps. Isolation of suspect cases. Curfews. Compulsory masks. Precise timing and immediate reactions.
- Development of a transnational SuperApp against pandemics by international data networking and necessary responses. Temporary restriction of data protection rules, usually they are too strict and thus prevent thousands of lives from being saved, in a national pandemic crisis, especially in Europe through a national emergency regulation pursuant to Article 23 (1) e EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR 2016/679).
- Easily accessible and creative large-scale aid programs for the economy from day X, including simulations of their effectiveness as well as political options for lockdowns and restrictions.
- Develop and produce the necessary tests and effective vaccines (rapid development, rapid mass production, and immediate three-month vaccination schedule for the ent- ire population) with industry worldwide.
- Establishment of sufficient depots and rapid production of all necessary products such as effective masks (FFP2 and 3), gowns, respirators, vaccines, trained personnel, clinics in all countries. Logistical planning for transport and assistance.
- Erecting sufficient pandemic operational units in countries supported by NATO, EU and the WHO with civil and military units.
- The basis for combating Covid-19 is a modern health care system with a sufficient number of intensive care beds, staff and emergency capacities. This existed neither in northern Italy nor in New York City. Responsibility lies with the relevant regional authorities.
Asian Tigers best
Taiwan’s sensational success in containing Covid-19 (with 99 percent less deaths than Germany, even without curfews that damage the economy and severely restrict freedom) was based primarily on these six factors:
- Fast and circumspect preparation with digitalized situation centers and a nationwide deployment structure: Tai- wan was severely affected by the Sars epidemic in 2003. The modern country immediately set up an effective “Ready to Go” action structure for a new pandemic. The “National Health Command Centre” (NHCC) was founded as a central coordination point. This included three other command centres for epidemics (CECC), bioterrorism and medical emergencies. The Vice President, a for- mer doctor and infection scientist, is in charge of coordination.
- Distrust of a cover-up orchestrated by China and the WHO: Taiwan is not a member of the WHO and has dis- trusted the information from Beijing from the outset. When the WHO first reported “a new case of pneumonia” in Wuhan on December 31st, 2019, the government immediately sent officials to all aircraft landing in Taiwan from that city. They checked passengers for fever and symptoms and recorded their data before they were allowed to leave the airport.
- Quick response in January 2020: As early as January 5, they used the entry data and mobile phone profiles to search for passengers who had arrived from Wuhan in the previous 14 days. Suspected cases were investigated for viruses, as tests for Covid-19 were not yet available. All people with symptoms were placed under strict quaranti- ne and examined to see if hospital care was needed. The New Year’s holiday was extended by two weeks. On January 21st, the CDC activated its crisis centre.
- Immediate data-based measures including an effective Co- ronaApp with no obstructions of privacy during the emer- gency: From January 27 onwards, the Immigration Department’s data were checked against the official registrations and the National Health Insurance Fund, and infected persons were traced. Suspected cases were electronically monitored via their mobile phones. It took the NHCC only one day to do this. For their phones, tra- velers were given an app allowing them to enter their tra- vel history in China and their state of health. They were constantly informed by SMS. Respiratory masks were ra- tioned and only distributed through pharmacies.
- Everyone wore masks: The national production of disinfectants and protective clothing was immediately ramped up. Because Taiwan reacted so early and consistently, its chains of infection were quickly interrupted as early as January and February 2020.
- Consistent early quarantine: Anyone entering the country from abroad was not allowed to leave their home or hotel room for a fortnight. No matter whether foreigners or ci- tizens, with or without symptoms. Those who disregard the rules will have to pay a heavy fine. Because everyone entering the country is quarantined, there is no obligation to test. The citizens therefore stay in the country. No lock- down was necessary. Everyday private and economic life continued, thus avoiding billions of dollars of damage.
Singapore, South Korea and Hongkong reacted similarly: entries from the People’s Republic of China were banned at an early stage, the temperature of all individuals entering the country was measured and their data recorded, new apps were used to track down contact persons, suspicious cases were immediately isolated, and the entire population was protected with masks. The hospitals are also equipped with modern equipment and the staff is well trained. They were the Asian Tiger Champions.
America and Europe failed in the worst crisis since WW II
The reason for the failure of the democracies in Europe and America in the Corona crisis is the tough mélange of insufficient preparations, inadequate planning and control, lack of creativity and lack of effectiveness, during the crisis of the century. Frequently contradictory and chaotic, often hectic and short-sighted, politically unambitious, much too slow and too bureaucratic. All these insufficient efforts delayed and prevented early, optimal and effective protection against the virus.
In the U.S., George W. Bush’s brilliant initiative was bogged down in Washington’s bureaucracy. The Trump White House spread the poison of ideology and created chaos.
The discussions during the crisis about possible decisions and actions were conducted in a superficial manner. Only a small circle of government officials including a few experts were involved. There was no broad and creative decision-making process in parliaments as the heart chambers of our democracies. Moreover, the lack of digitization due to excessive data protection prevented effective action in a national state of emergency. Furthermore, lessons from the best in Asia were ignored. Mistakes due to ignorance and self-righteousness resulted in poor leadership.
All these facts delayed and prevented early, optimal and effective disaster response costing the lives of many thousands, especially the elderly, who could have been saved by a better policy with more creativity and effectiveness plus humanity. In addition, Covid-19 caused the greatest economic damage since World War II estimated at several trillion dollars.
This complacent and ignorant crisis management does not do justice to the core mission of liberal democratic states, the protection of human dignity and life.
This kind of policy is irresponsible, unethical and inhumane. It is also old-fashioned and hostile to the future.
Let us, like the Chinese, see today’s crisis as a point of change and thus as an opportunity to launch a new, better policy. The Corona crisis is destroying thousands of billions of national assets, including the savings of low-income people and many livelihoods due to bad governance.
The mega state is now running up even more debt and is getting bigger and bigger, but also better? Comprehensive state aid at gigantic levels only makes sense if it funds and shapes the future – like AI, 6G, digitisation or modern schools – but not old structures. Otherwise, tax water is poured into the great desert of an illusionary mirage merely depriving us from shaping our future.
There will continue to be crises and deaths in the future. That is a risk accompanying all life. However, with a new Policy 4.0, we can manage protection against disasters, viruses, war or the destruction of nature more creatively, effectively and humanely and thus save many lives and our world as a result. We must make our global village better, freer and more innovative. With competent political personnel, modern organisations and fresh ideas.
Anything is possible if we only want it and actively implement it.
The power to learn and change lies within us humans. The power of good.
A way out of the crisis of the century and into a beneficial future characterized by security, peace, freedom and prospe- rity can only be found with much more humanity, creativity and effectiveness.
This is the new raison d’état today.
The future-task for us citizens and responsible politicians. Courage in shaping a better future – the start of a fresh global Mission Future.