It is June but the coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down. As of June 12, more than 7.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported across 213 Countries, including at least 425,500 deaths.
With over 2 million Americans infected, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic has now shifted to the USA. The outbreaks in Latin American countries, especially Brazil, is a warning. Despite executing the world’s harshest and most extensive lockdown, cases and deaths in India continue to mount with experts saying COVID-19 could cost 135 million jobs and push 120 million Indians into poverty.
As the world transitions into the next stage of the coronavirus pandemic, approval of government handling of COVID-19 has plunged to lowest level.
Perception of Government Handling of COVID-19
According to the latest findings and analysis by YouGov, a British market research and data analytics firm that tracks how people are responding to the outbreak and their views on their government’s handling of the contagious disease, approval ratings in the UK (which has suffered Europe’s highest reported death toll from COVID-19) and USA (which leads the world in COVID-19 deaths) continue their decline.
YouGov’s rolling perception poll, which monitors the percentage of people who think their government is handling the crisis very or fairly well, shows only 41% of Britons say the government is managing the outbreak well (in mid-March the percentage was 72%), versus 56% who say it is mishandling it.
While 41% of Americans say the Trump administration is performing well, 53% claim it is performing poorly.
In Italy, satisfaction with the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has slipped 11 points from its mid-March peak of 78% to 69% on June 3. Overall public approval of the government of the Philippines’ COVID-19 response has declined from 74% on May 18 to 62% on June 8.
Indians’ confidence in the government handling of COVID-19 has plummeted quickly. On May 1, 90% of respondents said the government was handling the crisis very or fairly well. This number was reduced to 73% on June 8. The number of Indians who said the situation in their country is getting worse has increased from 53% in early May to 64% in early June.
The Trend Towards Skepticism
Even as satisfaction levels across Europe have fallen and risen, with leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron experiencing a surge in their personal approval ratings from the initial decline, support for UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s government has fallen steadily.
According to three opinion polls released in early June, British citizens have lost a greater degree of confidence in their government than citizens of any other G7 country.
What went wrong? At the start of the outbreak, public health officials in the UK tracked, traced, tested, and treated every suspected case. On March 12, they abandoned the policy to prevent the health service from being overloaded.
Watch: UK Government’s Coronavirus handling rating
The government is also criticized for its failure to order a lockdown early enough. The UK recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on January 31. Even as neighboring countries were quick to close public places and enforce social distancing, Johnson kept the country running in order to allow the population to develop herd immunity and beat the virus. By March 23, when Johnson announced the lockdown, the delay proved fatal.
From being dismissive at first to being combative when the crisis, economy, and public health was slipping out of his hands, US President Donald Trump’s approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic has been quite flimsy. His attempt to glorify the resilience of the economy, lackluster response to the 14.7% unemployment rate (highest since the Great Depression), accusing the medical professionals of stealing personal protective equipment (PPEs), and calling armed protesters against Michigan’s coronavirus lockdown as ‘very good people’ to piece together a narrative ahead of the presidential elections hasn’t gone down well with the Americans. According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 8 of 10 voters believed things were “out of control”. This figure includes 92% of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 66% of Republicans. The Week reports: “Amid the coronavirus pandemic and racial unrest across the country, Trump’s rating has taken a setback. This is forcing his aides to recalibrate his image ahead of the elections. As per a CNN poll which was released on Monday, Trump’s overall approval rating fell 7 percent, while Biden’s rating surged by 14 percent.”
In India, the first COVID-19 case was reported on January 30. On February 24, prime minister Narendra Modi hosted a state visit for Donald Trump after which the two leaders addressed a gathering of over 100,000 at a cricket stadium. On March 13, two days after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, the Indian government assured its citizens that coronavirus was not a health emergency.
Yet, on March 24, Modi announced the largest lockdown in history with a four-hour notice – without a plan – plunging the country into chaos and economic misery. On March 25, the first day of the lockdown, India had 618 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths. After 80 days of lockdown, India has nearly 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 8,500 deaths. Foreign Policy observes: “The coronavirus has struck India at a time when social cohesion is at its weakest in decades. The civic conditions necessary to mount a public-spirited campaign have been shredded by the exclusionary policies pursued by Modi’s Hindu-first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)… The tragedy unfolding in India is inseparable from the pulverization of democratic norms under Modi. The opposition Congress party rang the alarm bells on COVID-19 as early as February. Its former leader, Rahul Gandhi, spent weeks warning the prime minister of the impending devastation.
Watch: Assessing Indian PM Modi’s response to COVID-19
“But Modi operates not as an elected leader accountable to people but as a potentate; his thinking is always shrouded in secrecy, and his disdain for information that might contradict him is apparent from his methodical subversion of institutions—from independent media to the judiciary—that might serve as a check on his power. Parliament, the elected sovereign of India, no longer debates ideas and policies. It exists as a forum for the promulgation of the prime minister’s vision.”
The Best Global Responses
While most governments across the world failed the pandemic test, a small of number countries and their leaders received international praise for their handling of the crisis and setting an example. Instead of a complete lockdown, Taiwan closed its borders, banned exports of surgical masks, used contact tracing, and mobile SIM-tracking to identify and quarantine suspected COVID-19 citizens. Businesses followed aggressive precautionary measures like thermal screening of customers and kept the economy running. Today, Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic ranks among the world’s best.
South Korea, a major global economy, began developing COVID-19 tests while its overall death count was still below a hundred. With continued vigilance, extensive testing and contact tracing, timely treatment of confirmed cases, and a sizable government stimulus helped the country beat the calamity – without grinding its economy to a halt.
New Zealand’s first COVID-19 case was detected on Feb 28. Moving swiftly, the country shut its borders to outside travelers by mid-March, closed non-essential businesses by March-end, instituted a “level 4 lockdown” (meaning people could only interact with people within their home), and rolled out a slew of tax reforms to help the country’s small businesses. The country had 1,504 COVID-19 cases and just 22 coronavirus-related deaths. Now, New Zealand is COVID-19 free.
Australia, Germany, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Greece, and UAE also turned the tide on coronavirus. The New York Times writes: “A willingness to take quick and bold action, even when it carries political risk, is surely among the most important hallmarks of leadership in a crisis. Other elements of effective leadership include respect for science, transparent messaging, constant updating of the evidence, and prompt assurance of financial support. Beyond politics, economics and science lie qualities of character that can’t be faked, chiefly compassion, which may be the most important in reassuring a frightened, insecure, and stricken population.”