US President Donald Trump. Picture: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA/BLOOMBERG
US President Donald Trump. Picture: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA/BLOOMBERG

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” wrote WB Yeats in 1919. A century later, it’s clear: the epicentre cannot hold. Catastrophic decisions in the White House have doomed the world’s richest country to a season of untold suffering.

The US, long a beacon of scientific progress and medical innovation with its world-class research institutions and hospitals, is now the hub of a global pandemic that has infected at least 745,000 people and already claimed more than 35,000 lives worldwide. Now that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US has surpassed that of any other nation, Americans are consigned for the coming weeks to watching the illness fell family members and friends, and to fearing for their own fate as they watch death tolls rise.

While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive globally, much of the profound impact it will have in the US was preventable. As the US public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it’s worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.

The outbreak demanded a White House that could act swiftly and competently to protect public health, informed by science and guided by compassion and public service.  It begged for a president to deliver clear, consistent, scientifically sound messages on the state of the epidemic and its solutions, to reassure the public amid their fear, and to provide steady guidance to cities and states. And it demanded a leader who would put the country’s wellbeing first, above near-term stock market returns and his own re-election prospects, and who would work with other nations to stem the tide of Covid-19 cases globally.

The months the administration wasted with prevarication about the threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more Covid-19 cases than were necessary. In other words, the US president has blood on his hands. /Boston, March 30

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