By Dr Austin Maho
The United States is coming under increasing scrutiny as a result of the way the country has managed and mismanaged the outbreak of the coronavirus that has led to an unprecedented spike in the number of infections in the US which is now causing panic across the globe.
Recently a group of Congolese lawyers filed a criminal complaint against the US
The National Bar Association Law office, filed a petition to the Congolese Attorney General’s Office blaming President Trump and the US Government for the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the DRC
The lawyers in their plaint specifically blamed the US of not informing the rest of the world in order to avoid the virus and has thus exposed the Congolese population to COVID-19, Which they said has led to, “the decimation of the Congolese population of which 13,400 people are affected and 190 have already died in flagrant violation of article 7 of the statutes of Rome and of the International Criminal Court”.
The petitioners are blaming the United states on the grounds that the coronavirus was first reported in the US in September of 2019 but the US government did nothing to contain the spread of the virus to the rest of the world.
“Since September 2019, the report on the surveillance of the Covid-19 influenza in the United States by its Director responsible for the Center for the prevention and control of epidemiological diseases Mr. Robert Ladfield, published in the official websites that several Americans were already infected by the virus as at September 2019”.
The lawyers also noted that statistics from the United States medical services showed that as of March 07, 2020 that more than 36 million Americans were already infected, 22,000 of whom have died from Covid-19 and the list is growing daily.
As of March 11, 2020, the US government also publicly acknowledged on Cable News Network, CNN that the corona virus started to spread in its territory six months earlier ( in September).
Furthermore, the New York State Governor Chris Cuomo had declared that he, his wife and two children were already infected with Covid-19 in October 2019.
Similarly the US aircraft carrier Théodore Rossevelt which left the port of Santiago in Chile in January for the Philippine Sea had on board naval officers suffering from Covid-19. An indication that the virus started spreading in the US long before it was announced by Chinese offcials.
The import of the petition is that the US was aware of the existence of Covid-19 on its homeland as at September 2019 but chose to hide it from the rest of the world until China isolated the virus in December 2019 and made its findings available to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Congolese lawyers are thus seeking compensation from the US government in line with international law and extant Congolese laws for damage to its economy and the devastation wrecked by Covid -19 on its healthcare system.
Irrespective of how the case may turn out, as a result of the legal lacuna that the petitioners may face in prosecuting a sovereign state, one take away from this case is that the petitioners have been able to establish that the spike in cases of the virus in the US is not unconnected with the fact that the virus has been in America since September of 2019, but the American government chose to hide the information from the rest of the world.
Ironically, while the coronavirus was spreading in the United States the Trump administration launched a campaign of calumny against China blaming it for the origin and spread of the virus, apparently, it was a grand design by Trump to divert global attention from the real source of the virus.
The initial accusation that the Chinese government delayed in letting the world know about the COVID-19 outbreak become a political weapon by the US government and its UK and Canadian allies, but it was all a calculated attempt to divert attention from its failings by focusing on China.
The fact however remains that Chinese scientists have won international praise for following the right protocol. It is on record that as early as January, a team of Chinese scientists led by Yong-Zhen Zhang, of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre & School of Public Health, published the initial coronavirus genome on two open-access sites, drawing praise for the swiftest sequencing effort ever. Later that month, Chinese doctors and scientists reported the first description of the new disease in the Lancet Medical Journal.
The editor of the acclaimed Lancet Medical Journal, Richard Horton later had this to say: “Under immense pressure, as the epidemic exploded around them, they took time to write up their findings in a foreign language and seek publication in a medical journal thousands of miles away. Their rapid and rigorous work was an urgent warning to the world. We owe those scientists enormous thanks”.
While the scientific community was praising the efforts of China US president Donald Trump repeatedly went after Beijing, calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.” While ignoring the spiraling out- break in his own country.
Two days after the US officially announced its first case of coronavirus, Donald Trump said the situation was “totally under control” and assured the public it was “going to be just fine”.
However four months later, in May the virus had spread across all 50 states in the US, leaving a death toll of 100,000 from more than 1.6 million confirmed cases.
The death toll in the US became the highest in the world in early April and has risen dramatically since then. President Donald Trump initially said “50 to 60,000” people could die from the coronavirus but in May he said he was hopeful the toll would be lower than 100,000. That benchmark has now been exceeded and the numbers are still climbing.
As at July, tally by the Johns Hopkins University recorded almost 4 million infected with 144,000 deaths!
As coronavirus cases and death surge in the U.S., health experts in countries with falling case numbers are watching with a growing sense of alarm and disbelief, with many wondering why virus-stricken U.S. states continue to reopen and why the advice of scientists is often ignored.
Confronted with the enormity of the coronavirus challenge, it would seem as if the United States has given up, while the rhetoric coming from US president Trumps suggests that he is more interested in winning the November elections rather than dealing with the health pandemic ravaging Americans.
In contrast, China’s actions over the past week stand in stark contrast to those of the United States. For example in the wake of a new cluster of infections in Beijing, authorities sealed off neighborhoods, launched a mass testing campaign and immediately imposed travel restrictions.
On the other hand, President Trump maintains that the United States will not shut down a second time.
Commentators and experts in Europe, where cases have continued to decline, voiced concerns over the state of the U.S. response. They see the US inability to contain the virus as a threat to the global community.
It is this global threat that the US response to the coronavirus poses that perhaps justifies the suit filed by the Congolese lawyers against the Trump administration.
Evidently, the US under the leadership of Trump has questions to answer, how come he was blaming China, calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” when he knew that the virus was present in the US as at September 2019?
Secondly, in view of overwhelming evidence that the virus got to the US before China shouldn’t Trump apologize to China for misleading the World and blaming China?
Furthermore, can the US now tell the world why it hurriedly shut down an Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, in Fort Detrick in August of 2019 under a “cease and desist order” ?
Finally, shouldn’t the US be held accountable to the global community as the Congolese lawyers have done in their suit for failing to track and contain the virus before its global spread?