07:44 GMT29 March 2020
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    The US’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been slow and inefficient compared to China’s response, KJ Noh, a peace activist and scholar on the geopolitics of Asia, and Mike Wong, the vice president of the San Francisco chapter of Veterans for Peace, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Wednesday.

    The US is currently facing a widespread outbreak, with more than 8,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 116 deaths, according to the latest data by Johns Hopkins. Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis is dwindling in China - ground zero of the disease - thanks to its extremely aggressive and quick measures to curb the outbreak.

    According to a report by the New York Times, China is currently only seeing single-digit numbers of new daily cases and has redirected its efforts to helping other countries, including Italy, Iraq, Spain and Peru, deal with the crisis.

    “There was this ideological hubris that said this can’t happen [in the US]. There’s a false sense of security because the American media was telling itself and the political class was telling itself that this is a communist coronavirus … we lost the opportunity,  six-to-eight week advantage when we should have been testing massively, we should have been preparing massively,” Noh said.

    “Hospital beds, equipment, oxygen, ventilators, ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation] - all of these capacities should have been built up. There should have been massive social distancing done weeks ago. We are several weeks past the point when China closed down, had a complete lockdown on certain cities, and yet all this time has been squandered, all this opportunity has been lost, and I'm afraid to say that lives will be lost because of this,” Noh told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    In addition, China was forced to deal with the deadly disease when there was nothing known about it. Meanwhile, the US media criticized the Chinese government’s response to the crisis but did not begin preparing for an impending outbreak within its own borders.

    “China dealt with the disease, but it was unknown, and they did not know what they were dealing with, and they had to learn as they go what this new disease was, what its characteristics were, what its capabilities were. They found out all that information the hard way, and they won successfully, and they passed that info on to the rest of the world. So, the rest of the world had the advantage of knowing what they were dealing with which the Chinese did not. And yet the Chinese defeated the disease, and we left ourselves wide open,” Wong told Sputnik.

    One week after the genetic sequence of the coronavirus was made available, German researchers developed a test that would detect the virus. That test is being used by countries around the world. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declined to use the test and decided to develop its own instead. However, US state labs found that the CDC test caused false positive results, forcing the agency to redevelop the test kits, resulting in widespread testing delays in the US. 

    A photo of US Vice President Mike Pence praying with other members of the coronavirus task force earlier this month has resulted in widespread criticism over the US’ response to the crisis. 

    “I think it’s a total indictment of the system. If you have a system that values profit over people, that emphasizes individual over structural responses and that functions from a superstitious or irrational aspect rather than applying science, this is what is going to happen,” Noh said. “And the negligence, the total chaos that we are seeing right now, this is a fundamentally delegitimizing situation.”

    “If there’s anything good that comes out of this, it tells us that there are fundamental things that have to change in this society - the first among them being that we have to have a national health insurance plan and that the responses have to be based on science, not on profit or superstition,” Noh explained.

    The US’ “arrogance” and “hubris” also applies to other major, global problems such as climate change and the nuclear arms race.

    “After all the bashing that the Chinese received from the West, from the media, the politicians talking about how this disease had gotten out of control because of the Chinese authoritarian system. The Chinese are actually now sending expert teams to help Italy and to help other nations. The Chinese system proved that it worked better, and they’re exporting the model because it’s the only thing that can save people’s lives,” Wong explained.

    “What the Chinese did, it was a phenomenal collective action that was supported by almost everybody. But essentially what they did was they repurposed the machinery of government … and had this agile, turbo-charged response that used technology, AI [artificial intelligence], big data and 5G, and they applied it in differentiated fashion to every city, every region. Specifically what it looked like was essentially everybody was screened. They were using infrared temperature gauges, and every time you would enter a building or transit through one point to another, you were screened for fever. If you had a fever, they would take you to a fever hospital, and these were all over the country, especially in Hubei,” Noh explained.

    “At the fever hospital, they would do a CT scan. If the CT scan showed the typical ground-glass pattern in your lungs, then they would take you to the next step, which was the actual RNA testing. If you did test positive, then you would be sent to an isolation ward, and from then on you would be monitored, given good treatment … given a whole variety of activities, and then they would also do the contact tracing.”

    “Again, high-tech approach to contact tracing using supercomputers and 5G and big data and of course, they did this incredible treatment process. They sent 40,000 doctors into the region and mobilized every capacity, every medical capacity that they had in order to treat people, such that even elderly that were 102 years old were able to survive. So this was kind of what needs to happen [in the US], and exactly this is what is not happening,” he continued.

    According to Wong, the Chinese people also supported the government and made sacrifices to help contain the virus.

    “People everywhere supported the government; they cooperated with each [local] government; they felt that they were all in this together. They did what needed to be done collectively. You had people from other provinces, medical personnel, volunteering to go to Wuhan and serve even though it was hard, they would be separated from their families … people sacrificed, they did whatever was necessary, they worked long shifts, they got very little sleep in many little cases, and they did it all willingly. There was a collective spirit that was a critical piece of this whole thing. Both the government and the people worked together,” Wong explained.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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