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Politics & Policy of COVID-19

COVID-19 O'NEILL INSTITUTE LOGOThe novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), identified in December 2019, has become a major outbreak and has spread to four continents. To address the outbreak and minimize its impact, the international community must work together to manage 2019-nCoV and use lessons learned from previous pandemics like Ebola, and other coronaviruses like MERS and SARS.

Image of empty security line at an airport terminal

Transparency and Testing Work Better Than Coercion in Coronavirus Battle

Countries have called put in place strict and coercive measure to address COVID-19 outbreaks in their borders. And while authoritarian responses in a time of crisis can seem attractive, it is the far less conspicuous public health work that seems to be separating the effective responses so far.

In Foreign Policy, Matthew Kavanagh looks at the importance of tried and and scientifically based public health measures like testing and the need for transparent reporting in response COIVD-19. By looking at the successes from South Korea and Hong Kong, Kavanagh reminds the strength of democratic governance for effective outbreak response.

Indonesian health official monitoring as passengers from an international flight

Virus Travel Bans Are Inevitable But Ineffective

Over 70 countries have enacted travel bans in response to COVID-19, despite WHO’s recommendations saying otherwise. Studies show that “travel restrictions might slow, but cannot prevent, an epidemic,” and that these restrictions can lead to harmful effects. The travel restrictions against China are estimated to cost the U.S. economy $10.3 billion, and hinder response efforts, fuel xenophobia, and can incentivize countries to conceal outbreaks.

In a new argument in Foreign Policy, Mara Pillinger analyzes travel restrictions in response to virus outbreaks, examining why policymakers opt to implement them, and how their reasoning is difficult to overcome. Recognizing this fact, the piece comments on efforts that can be made to mitigate the harmful effects of travel bans, such as creating exceptions to the bans to facilitate international epidemic responses, incentivizing early and transparent reporting, and developing funding mechanisms to support affected countries.


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Authoritarianism, Outbreaks, and Information Politics

Analysis published in The Lancet Public Health examines recent measures to contain and address the virus, under the autocratic government in China. China’s authoritarian government has shown its power in quickly implementing a cordon sanitaire, restricting travel, and building new hospitals to provide care. However, the nature of the state impeded information sharing about the virus, as local health officials have avoided “sharing bad news with their central bosses and await instructions before acting.” The article argues that China’s autocratic political system resulted in missed opportunities to control the outbreak before these massive and untested control efforts were necessary. Without open media and opposition checks and balances on the government, the authoritarian state has struggled to understand the outbreak and to share accurate information with the public.

Article Title Graphic saying "The WHO held off on declaring the Wuhan coronavirus a global health emergency. Here's Why."

The WHO held off on declaring the Wuhan coronavirus a global health emergency. Here’s why.

After a two-day meeting, the World Health Organization did not declare the outbreak of 2019-nCoV a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, Mara Pillinger analyzes the politics and the reasons of the decision, and looks at past events when WHO decided to not declare a PHEIC. Additionally, she shares the reactions from the global health community to the decision, especially in regards to the severity of the outbreak.


Experts in the Media

How the U.S. can defeat coronavirus: Heed Asia’s lessons from past epidemics, The Washington Post, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

As coronavirus pandemic delays 2020 primaries, is it time to worry about the November election?, USA Today, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

The Coronavirus Pandemonium: A Conversation with Mara Pillinger, Global Governance Futures, feat. Mara Pillinger

What We Can Learn From Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong About Handling Coronavirus, TIME, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

Funding HIV Globally Could Have Helped Halt Coronavirus, Logo, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

How to control the spread of the coronavirus: Lessons from Taiwan, Al Jazeera, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

Trump’s efforts to muzzle health officials and downplay coronavirus mirror the tactics of an authoritarian regime, experts say, Business Insider, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

Oregon coronavirus infection becomes third case of unknown origin in U.S.,The Washington Post,  feat. Mara Pillingermatthewmatt

Global Fears Rise as Coronavirus Spreads Beyond China, Foreign Policy, feat. Mara Pillinger

Coronavirus COVID-19’s Wuhan lockdown, a month on, Australian Broadcasting Company, feat. Matthew Kavanagh

Chinese officials note serious problems in coronavirus response. The World Health Organization keeps praising them., The Washington Post, feat. Lawrence Gostin and Mara Pillinger

WHO declares novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency, Australian Broadcasting Company, feat. Matthew Kavanagh (2:02) Audio

Is the World Prepared for the Next Pandemic?, The Takeaway, feat. Matthew Kavanagh (3:47) Audio