US virus death toll a new stain on its human rights record
Published: May 28, 2020 08:23 AM

Photo: Xinhua

A new stain on the human rights record of the US: The country's death toll from the COVID-19 epidemic surpassed 100,000 as of press time. 

For most US observers, the botched US response to the epidemic is jaw-dropping. The novel coronavirus exposes the hypocrisy of the US - the self-proclaimed greatest defender of human rights. Why has the country, which often points a finger at others over human rights affairs, done a much poorer job in protecting lives of its own people than countries that it often reproaches? 

That the US now has the largest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths goes beyond expectations. China locked down Wuhan - the Chinese city hit the hardest by the epidemic - on January 23, sending early warnings of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The US, with sufficient time to prepare, the most advanced medical system and technology, as well as rich experience in dealing with public health crises, should have performed well, or at least not so poorly amid the epidemic. But taking US President Donald Trump administration's bungled response to the outbreak and its actions on internal and external affairs over the past few years, it comes as no surprise that the US has been entangled in a mess. 

The Trump administration prioritizes political interests rather than people's lives. For them, whether it can win reelection is the most important thing. It gives little consideration to how many people have died, how serious the epidemic is and whether it should bear the responsibility. 

The Trump administration, Trump in particular, also shows contempt for science. Staff members at the White House had not been ordered to wear masks until the epidemic has raged on for months. Trump ridiculously floated the idea of injecting disinfectant to fight COVID-19. The epidemic is a public health issue that should be tackled with science. But for the Trump administration, science is the least important thing. 

Since Trump came to power, partisan interests have been put above everything. As US politics becomes increasingly polarized, states, controlled by different parties, continuously attack each other on epidemic response and fight for badly needed medical supplies. The lives of Americans have been shrouded in mist of partisan politics.    

As seen from China's response to the coronavirus, what is needed most during the epidemic is concerted efforts from the top down, which is found wanting in the US. 

Such being the case, it's not surprising that the death toll has surpassed 100,000 in the US. And it's far from the worst result as there is still no sign that the novel coronavirus can be tamped down. 

The New York Times lists 1,000 coronavirus deaths, just 1 percent of the total US death toll, on its Sunday front page - heartbreaking as it is, it represents the anger of some Americans, mainly the liberals, Democratic establishment, and the median voters. But remember, about 45 percent of the voters still strongly support Trump. They tend to regard criticism of Trump's coronavirus policy political smears or rumors.  

It's the Trump administration that is to blame for the chaotic coronavirus response and the grave situation the US is confronted with now. Be it former president Barack Obama or George W. Bush, if the COVID-19 epidemic broke out during their tenures, the US situation would have been much less severe. Unfortunately, Trump hasn't made a reflection. He is attempting to shift the blame to Democrats, to China and to the WHO. 

Trump played golf twice over the just concluded weekend while the US is in a life-and-death struggle to contain the coronavirus. It would be unthinkable for a Chinese official to do the same and he or she will never be accepted by the Chinese public. Trump may attempt to send a message to the US public that the crisis is not serious and that they should resume work, production and economy as soon as possible - all for his reelection.  

A Chinese netizen commented on Sino Weibo that "the death toll of over 100,000 cannot wake up a president who only cares about economic figures and the US government is proving its incompetence at the cost of Americans' lives." Now, it's impossible for the US to count on Trump's leadership to contain the epidemic. The inflection point won't appear until a miracle drug or vaccine is developed, or the novel coronavirus naturally becomes less infectious, or Trump loses the election. Before that, more Americans will have to struggle.  

The author is a commentator with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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