BILL GATES, COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE NEW GLOBAL ORDER? WHAT IS TO BE DONE! –APRIL 2020
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019, a name of one individual that has appeared in many people’s discussions, newspaper articles, conspiracies, television programmes and boardrooms is that of Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world. Bill Gates is often mentioned in contradictory terms, sometimes as the villain and sometimes as a global Saviour in a world confronted by COVID-19. Bill Gates’ name is associated with a conspiratorial supposition that he knew about the outbreak before it occurred and is part of those who will produce a magical vaccine, which will save the world from the dangerous and devastating pandemic.
As of mid-April 2020, the highly contagious COVID-19 or the novel corona virus as it is also known has impacted more than 2 million people and claimed the lives of more than 150 thousand people since the first reported case in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China which had just hosted the Military World Games in October 2019. The virus, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March, has seen entire countries lockdown and close their borders as economies take a massive knock.
Without the conspiratorial ramble that has defined public discourse since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we perhaps should pause and use hardcore facts to analyse and understand the Bill Gates phenomenon and thereafter propose concrete solutions on what is to be done nationally, continentally and globally to combat COVID-19. In the left political spectrum, conspiracism is a “trend that equates the bourgeoisie to an Illuminati-like organization, to see the workings of class society and its contradictions as the conspiratorial actions of the ruling classes rather than as historically and materially- defined processes. To willfully ignore antagonisms within the ruling classes and have a weak analysis of current conditions, opting for a caricature of scientific (Marxist) analysis. On the other hand, to conduct oneself secretly when the conditions do not call for it”. This contribution will not be conspiratorial as conspiracies drive decision-makers far away from the truth, and further from scientific solutions.
In South Africa, Bill Gates’ name became an issue after he said in an interview with the Comedian Trevor Noah that “in developing countries [COVID-19] is far harder and so you know there will be these measures to actually stop it from getting to a large part of the population in places like India, Nigeria. You know I was talking to President Ramaphosa, who’s not only President of South Africa but as the head of the African Union and he’s a very strong voice encouraging the countries there to act quickly when the number of cases is still fairly low” . Without revealing much detail, President Ramaphosa confirmed his interaction with Bill Gates and said in a Twitter post that, “The @GatesFoundation has supported our health needs for many years. They have offered assistance with innovative mass-based testing kits and research. I spoke to @BillGates and he commended the swift and decisive action South Africa has taken on #COVID19”.
At the present stage, Bill Gates and President Cyril Ramaphosa have not taken the country into detailed confidence on the exact content, scope, scale, and nature of their discussions. What we all hope for is that whatever discussions they held will be subjected to official protocols and systems that govern South Africa and the entire African continent. It is important to highlight in this context that when subjected to acceptable protocols and ethical standards of trials and scientific confirmation, we all will be bound to undergo vaccination and if not, therapeutic or antiviral medication in order to contain the devastating nature of the virus.
Should South Africa, the entire African continent and the world be concerned about Bill Gates’ role in the efforts to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19? Should we be apprehensive about Bill Gates’ role in the efforts to find a global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic amidst suspicions of a future digitised vaccination, which will mandatorily include a biometric and digital identification of all vaccinated people? Before we respond to this question, let us perhaps give an overview of Bill Gates’ role in other global public health initiatives and how this links to his business interests. We should do so because the history of philanthropy in the world has demonstrated that philanthropists are often not genuine but rather greedy capitalist profiteers who manipulate governments into silence and submission on the altar of chivalrous generosity. There’s no country in the world that has ever stabilized its essential social service systems such as healthcare, education, sanitation or food supplies through philanthropy.
Who is Bill Gates in the Global Public Health Fraternity?
Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world who has made his riches through a corporation called Microsoft, which has monopolised parts of the market and has come to define how the world interacts and relates in the post third industrial revolution age. Almost all computing and now wireless communications platforms in the world have some degree of transactional relationship with Microsoft. In this regard, almost all major corporations, government, private age public institutions, non-governmental organizations and private individuals operate on platforms provided by Microsoft.
Bill Gates’ business interests include owning shares in different companies such as the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Ecolab, Canadian National Railway, Berkshire Hathaway, Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Republic Services, Diageo, Ritz-Carlton, and Walmart Inc. As of 2020, Bill Gates’ wealth is estimated to be above US$100 billion, which translates to more than R1.8 trillion in the current exchange rate. This effectively means that with an annual national budget of the same amount, Bill Gates’s wealth could fund South Africa’s basic needs inclusive of all salaries of public servants, social grants, budgets for transport infrastructure, debt repayments and all essentials of the state for the whole financial year. His wealth is not insignificant, and certainly bigger than the annual incomes, i.e. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many countries on the African continent and many other parts of the underdeveloped and developing world.
In March 2020, the New York Times reported that Bill Gates will “step down from the board of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by his close friend, Warren E. Buffett”. The Newspapers quotes Bill Gates as having said, “I have made the decision to step down from both of the public boards on which I serve — Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway — to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change”.
For a considerable period of time, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest philanthropic organisation in the world founded by Bill Gates in 2000, has been involved in the funding of public healthcare programmes in different parts of the world. However, the impact of their interventions has not been independently gauged. In South Africa, for instance, the Foundation has a close relationship with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and had previously worked with former President Nelson Mandela in efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis . The Foundation’s work includes the development of vaccines and immunizations for these leading causes of mortality in South Africa.
In this regard, the Foundation’s stated intention has been to discover and develop new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for HIV and TB. This is because despite the fact that South Africa comprises less than 1 percent of the global population, it contributes to 18 percent of the world’s HIV infections and HIV-related deaths, as well as 6 percent of the world’s TB infections and 2.5 percent of global TB-related deaths. There is no verifiable data that the Foundation’s effort has borne significant results because there are still no vaccines for HIV and TB despite more than 7 million people infected with HIV and 300 000 TB cases, number 5 in the world. Due to these realities, multinational pharmaceutical companies have been making billions of dollars out of the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, which are distributed for free by the government after concerted lobbying by social movements.
In 2000, Bill Gates also started the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), which includes the WHO, World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other philanthropy organizations in an effort to find vaccines, which will prevent a variety of diseases globally. The GAVI Vaccine alliance was previously called the Children Vaccine Alliance. Vaccines are defensive medicines which, when administered on people, prevent diseases from attacking their immune systems. In this regard, Bill Gates has developed obsession with presenting himself and his Foundation as those who will save the world from diseases.
As a result, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent the following amounts on public healthcare initiatives and programmes across the world, particularly on vaccination and immunization projects and programmes;
a) The GAVI Vaccine Alliance received more than US$3,5 billion.
b) The World Health Organisation received more than US1,5 billion.
c) The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria received more than US$700 million.
d) The Johns Hopkins University received more than US$200 million.
e) The Clinton Foundation received US$200 million.
f) The University of Oxford received more than US$100 million.
A variety of other public healthcare initiatives and global institutions have been the beneficiaries of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and evidently efforts that deal with vaccinations and immunisations receive disproportionate support from the Foundation. The network of benefactors from the Foundation provides Bill Gates with unfettered access and influence over public health policy at domestic and global levels. In 2011, the Foundation launched the Decade of Vaccination Collaboration, and established a Leadership Council which includes members such as Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO; Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director for UNICEF; Ms. Joy Phumaphi, Chair of the International Advisory Committee and Executive Secretary, African Leaders Malaria Alliance; Dr Tachi Yamada, President of Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and notably, Dr Anthony S. Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Now, Dr Anthony Fauci has become a disproportionately powerful voice in the United States’ Coronavirus Task Force and is often seen presenting superior scientific logic in the daily press briefings held under the leadership of US President Donald Trump at the White House. The establishment’s media houses present Dr Fauci as the alpha and omega of epidemiology, perhaps due to his credentials of having served under five Presidents of the United States as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or due to his involvement in the vaccine lobby under the fervent guidance of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In relation to Corona, Bill Gates’ warning about an impending pandemic has been well recorded and highly circulated during this period. In a 2015 TEDX address, Bill Gates said, “If anything kills over 10 million people over the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes”. He further said, “We've invested a huge amount
in nuclear deterrents, but we've invested very little in a system to stop epidemics. We are not ready for the next epidemic”.
Since then, Bill Gates has used different platforms and opportunities for engagement with world leaders to caution against an impending pandemic. In December 2019, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum (WEF) partook in EVENT201, a simulation of a Coronavirus pandemic outbreak in the world. EVENT201, hosted by the John Hopkins Centre for Health Security, acted out what would be the global response in the case of a global pandemic outbreak and assessed how different role players would react to the pandemic.
In the immediate aftermath of the real outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were those who tried to link the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the novel Coronavirus. In response, the John Hopkins Centre issued a statement saying, “to be clear, the Center for Health Security and partners did not make a prediction during our tabletop exercise. For the scenario, we modelled a fictional coronavirus pandemic, but we explicitly stated that it was not a prediction”. The Centre further said, “Instead, the exercise served to highlight preparedness and response challenges that would likely arise in a very severe pandemic. We are not now predicting that the nCoV-2019 outbreak will kill 65 million people. Although our tabletop exercise included a mock novel coronavirus, the inputs we used for modelling the potential impact of that fictional virus are not similar to nCoV-2019”.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019, Bill and Melinda Gates have conducted several interviews arguing that the world’s solution to the COVID-19 pandemic are vaccines, and further highlighted that their Foundation is funding different projects that are looking at finding a vaccine which will be the only basis upon which the world economy will function optimally. It is difficult to separate whether their fervent lobby for vaccines is due to their generosity or for private purposes, only time will tell.
If what we have outlined above are actually genuine efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, why are people so afraid of Bill Gates? Why are we all apprehensive that a generous man has spent billions of his hard-earned money to caution the world about a pending pandemic and begun preparations of what should be done when the pandemic arrives? Why is the world so afraid of a man whose primary focus after generating intergenerational wealth wants to eliminate diseases in the world through defensive vaccines and immunisations?
Below we present the reasons why we argue that the people of the world should be afraid of a Bill Gates-funded mission to vaccinate the whole world.
1) Capitalist Philanthropy is suspicious:
Writing for the Jacobin Magazine in 2015, Zahra Moolo argues that, “Wealthy businessmen set up the very first American foundations at the beginning of the twentieth century to shield themselves from taxation, build prestige, and gain a voice in global affairs. Since then, philanthropists have come to occupy an increasingly dominant position in economic development, influencing governments and international organizations alike”. Moolo (2015) further argues that, “by investing vast sums of money in solving complex historical problems, expanding the private sector, and investing in technical fixes, they advance the idea that capitalism is not the cause, but the solution, to the world’s troubles. In the words of historian Mikkel Thorup, capitalist philanthropy obscures the conflict between rich and poor, asserting instead that the rich are “the poor’s best and possibly only friend”
Moolo is correctly strengthening the view of Naomi Klein who argues that, “over the last two decades, elite liberals have been “looking to the billionaire class to solve the problems” that were formerly addressed “with collective action and a strong public sector”. In the context of South Africa, this is way too familiar and reminiscent of President Ramaphosa’s bulging announcements of generous “donations” from capitalist philanthropists, the Ruperts and Oppenheimers, which was subsequently revealed to not donations, but loan schemes aimed at desperate small and medium businesses. As Moola argues, “the solutions capitalist philanthropists propose in areas like health care, education, and agriculture erode public sector spending and shift the focus away from structural causes of poverty”.
In an opinion article published by the New York Times in 2011, Warren Buffet, of the global mega-billionaires and philanthropist wrote in an article titled, “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich”, that, “while the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors”. This observation does not apply to American mega-billionaires only, but to all super rich people all over the world. Buffet concludes by saying, “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice ”. If Governments all over the world stop coddling the super-rich, capitalist philanthropy, which comes with agenda setting and control of very important institutions, would be mitigated.
2) Bill Gates has private interests in pharmaceutical corporations.
In 2002, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has purchased shares in nine big pharmaceutical companies valued at nearly $205 million -- an investment likely to attract attention more for its symbolism than its size”. It is not a secret that the biggest beneficiary in the production, distribution and administering of the COVID-19 vaccine will be the pharmaceutical companies. This is due to the fact that each and every one of the approximately 7 billion citizens of the world will be compelled by governments to vaccinate. This will entail massive profits for the big pharmaceutical companies, and consequently, benefit the chivalrous Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
A COVID-19 vaccination will entail that the estimated 100 million babies who are born each year will be subjected to the vaccine and digital identification, meaning that year-on-year, after the vaccination is administered to all people who are alive today, there will be an additional 130 million or more vaccinations. If the capitalist logic of vaccination and digital identification is the norm and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the pharmaceutical companies, they have shares in plays a role, then they will make massive profits for eternity, more so with the nonsensical Intellectual Property rights administered in medications and computerised systems.
In his interview with the comedian Trevor Noah, Bill Gates said, “Our foundation (Gates Foundation) funded some work that will help with the vaccines now and the diagnostics. But most of what was called for, particularly in a New England Journal of Medicine article I did, that went into way more specifics than I could in a short TED talk, those things didn’t get done. That’s why it’s taking us a long time to get our act together faced with this threat”. Basically, the Foundation is financing large preparations for vaccination of the entire global population, which presently stands at more than 7 billion people.
3) We are apprehensive of the computerization of human beings.
Without being Luddite, we are correctly apprehensive of the rapid transition to the 5th Generation (5G) of wireless interconnectivity and what it might bring. We are apprehensive of the insertion of computerised chips into the human body. In September 2019, the Biometric Update published an article on its website, which said, “the ID2020 Alliance has launched a new digital identity program at its annual summit in New York, in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh, vaccine alliance Gavi, and new partners in government, academia, and humanitarian relief. The program to leverage immunization as an opportunity to establish digital identity was unveiled by ID2020 in partnership with the Bangladesh Government’s Access to Information (a2i) Program, the Directorate General of Health Services, and Gavi, according to the announcement”.
In the article that was updated on 26 March 2020, the Biometric Alliance says, “digital identity is a computerized record of who a person is, stored in a registry. It is used, in this case, to keep track of who has received vaccination”. Whilst this appears complex, what is more complex is the general understanding that human beings will be linked to computerised systems which will not only track who has received vaccinations, but will invasively monitor their movements, and in a worst case scenario, even influence their thought process when it comes to basic questions of what is wrong or right.
The relationship between the ID2020 Alliance and GAVI Vaccine Alliance started prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019 and is an uncomfortable one because when the vaccine is announced, the whole world will undergo vaccination and possibly digital identification. It is highly possible that part of the sine qua non (compulsory) necessities for all those who wish to travel to other parts of the world will be vaccination and digital identification. It will be highly possible for people to be forbidden to attend mass gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and restaurants without verified vaccination and digital identity.
So, because the COVID-19 will inevitably define a post-Corona world where vaccinations will be mandatory, people are afraid that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will use superior technologies to invade, zombify and control the entire world in the name of vaccination. A better explanation should be provided on how digital identity will not be abused by the powerful to achieve private political and capitalist aspirations through digital surveillance. Surveillance is often used by the powerful to track the less powerful.
There possibly exists an alternate superior explanation of the relationship between vaccination and digital identity, and those who can do so should provide such an explanation. An explanation in this regard will assist in dispelling the sect religious conspiracies and shallow biblical scholarship, which associate the present developments with the biblical Armageddon, and the mark of beast, which will want to mark each and every human being in the world to determine their selling or buying permissibility.
4) Bill Gates proximity to and control of key institutions and decision-makers in global health.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s extent of influence in global public healthcare is disproportionately higher than any of the organised or individual formations in the world. As illustrated in their benefactor network above, the Foundation has disproportionate influence over the WHO, UNICEF, World Economic Forum, and key individuals such as Dr Anthony Fauci.
In a seminal study of philanthropy and development, Jens Martens and Karolin Seitz argue that, “philanthropic foundations can have enormous influence on political decision-making and agenda setting. This is most obvious in the case of the Gates Foundation and its role in global health policy. Through the sheer size of its grant-making, its practice of providing matching funds, and its active advocacy, the Gates Foundation influenced priority setting in the WHO and the political shift towards vertical health funds. The Gates Foundation’s increased influence on the priorities and operations of the WHO is also due to changes in the funding patterns of its traditional state donors. Because in recent years the WHO has faced a serious lack of resources, which stands in stark contrast to the enormous and growing funding needs in global public health, including emergency preparedness and crisis response, the increasing imbalance of voluntary in relation to assessed contributions has led the WHO to “attract new donors and explore new sources of funding.” As the influence of these sources increased, so too have gaps in the WHO ability to respond adequately to global health emergencies, as seen in the case of its response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014”.
They further argue that, “philanthropic foundations, particularly the Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the UN Foundation are not only major funders but also driving forces behind global multi-stakeholder partner-ships. In fact, many of these partnerships, like the Children’s Vaccine Initiative, the TB Alliance, the GAVI Alliance, and Scaling up Nutrition (SUN), have been initiated by these foundations. But the mushrooming of global partnerships and vertical funds, particularly in the health sector, has led to isolated and often poorly coordinated solutions. These initiatives have not only contributed to the institutional weakening of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, but have also undermined the implementation of integrated development strategies at national level”.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s reach in global and domestic health policy options is disproportionate, and the results of such are not yet gauged because philanthropists are not publicly accountable to anyone. Whilst global capitalism and politics are presided over by mega-billionaires, elected representatives and elected bodies globally should strive to gain some degree of relative autonomy in order to provide leadership inspired by humanity and care for all people.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
1) Global Alliance against COVID-19–
Because we are dealing with a global pandemic, there necessarily has to be a common global effort to fight against the spread of COVID-19, and at the forefront of this global alliance should be powerful countries under the coordination of global institutions, particularly the WHO. The WHO should be equipped with the necessary resources, expertise and know-how to combat COVID-19 worldwide. Any leader who believes that the containment of COVID-19 should be a national or isolationist project is daydreaming because if such succeeds, it should immediately be followed by efforts of de-globalisation. The world is interconnected and a nationalist or isolationist effort to combat COVID-19 will not go very far because millions of people travel to different parts of the world for family, business, organisational, religious, sporting and personal purposes in any given year
The dominant countries such as China and the US should consolidate efforts to fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the same way the US and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) collaborated to eliminate the smallpox pandemic in the mid 20th century. In 1966, the smallpox virus caused havoc in the global health condition, and collaboration between cold war protagonist rivalries contained the spread of the disease. In a perspective titled Vaccine Diplomacy”: Historical Perspectives and Future Directions, Peter J. Hotez reminds the world that, “vaccine science diplomacy entered its golden age during the Cold War between the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Between 1956 and 1959, Dr. Albert Sabin from the US traveled to the USSR and collaborated with his Soviet virology counterparts, including Dr. Mikhail Chumakov, to develop a prototype oral polio vaccine and test it on 10 million Soviet children and ultimately 100 million people under the age of 20”.
The perspective further says, “today, the oral polio vaccine is leading to global eradication efforts. Similarly, between 1962 and 1966, the USSR pioneered a freeze-drying technique for smallpox vaccine and provided 450 million doses of vaccine to support global smallpox eradication campaigns in developing countries, while the US provided key financial support, as a result, “such international collaborative efforts led to the global eradication of smallpox by the late 1970s, an effort led by Dr. D. A. Henderson”.
Whilst the world was able to collaboratively and decisively contain smallpox and polio during the cold war, it failed dismally to suppress the influenza pandemic, which happened during World War 1 in 1918. Due to the suppression of open and honest reporting about the extent of the influenza pandemic, which was called the Spanish flu because the Spanish media widely reported about the pandemic whilst other countries suppressed the flow of information due to the war hostilities, between 50 and 100 million lives were lost to the influenza pandemic.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says, “the 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States”.
It is evident that the effort to combat COVID-19 necessarily needs a global alliance similar to or even bigger and better than the collaboration between the US and USSR during the cold war era. A supposition that national and isolationist containment of the rapid spread of COVID-19 will be a long-term solution is shortsighted. Whilst pursuing national containment measures, all countries should appreciate that the COVID-19 pandemic is a global phenomenon and will require a global response, because the world is not about to undergo any form of deglobalisation.
All countries and geo-political territories should certainly pursue national efforts to combat the further spread of COVID-19, and these should be in appreciation that a permanent solution will be a global solution. This therefore calls on the United Nations and its agencies, the WHO and UNCEF to lead and guide a concerted effort against the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, these agencies should not be micro-managed by philanthropists who often have private aspirations.
If Foundations and entities they support discover permanent and dependable scientific solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, these should be given with due consideration and subjected to the necessary protocols. This, nevertheless, should not entail that some messianic Foundations and individuals should lead this process, while world bodies can combine the global scientific medical, pharmaceutical and epidemiological responses that will salvage the world from a healthcare crisis, which will leave exponential socio-economic consequences in the whole world.
In this regard, it is logical to call to end all wars and sanctions that will serve to worsen the conditions most countries find themselves in and heighten the risk of COVID-19 infections. Let all wars, sanctions and trade embargoes be suspended in favour of a common global goal to defeat the pandemic.
Within the global alliance against COVID-19, the African continent and all its countries should immediately commence production of key healthcare essentials inclusive of protective gear, medical equipment and in the long term pharmaceutical products. The COVID-19 pandemic should spring South Africa into building some degree of dependable industrial and manufacturing sovereignty. If there is a continent that doesn’t play a significant role in the manufacturing component of the global value chain, it is the African continent.
As is illustrated in this perspective Cuba is a relatively small country, but it has built a very powerful healthcare system and pharmaceutical capacity which insulates it from heavy disease burdens that define the African continent. The African continent should engaged in both national and Pan continental efforts to build a healthcare system and pharmaceutical capacity, which might elevate some of the scientifically proven indigenous healing and disease prevention systems into the global pharmaceutical industry.
2) Intensify National Efforts with a global appreciation.
Whilst the primary pillar for the war against the COVID-19 pandemic is a global alliance, nation-states and all geo-political territories should intensify the containment measures such as non-essential travel restrictions, lockdowns, and heightened supplies of medical essentials and equipment that should respond to the pandemic. The relaxation of these restrictions should only be scientific epidemiological and dependable data analysis, not narrow economic considerations. Relaxing restrictions earlier might lead to an unmanageable resurgence of the spread of the virus, and we should not get there.
In pursuing national efforts, the whole world should appreciate that there are countries and nation-states in many parts of the world that have minimal or no healthcare capacity to effectively respond to the virus. These include the fact that due to years of colonialism and neo-colonialism, many African States in the African continent have no adequate and responsive healthcare systems and facilities to independently contain any pandemic. In 2015, the WHO pointed to the reality that, “without access to medicines, Africans are susceptible to the three big killer diseases on the continent: malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Globally, 50% of children under five who die of pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are in Africa”.
Of utmost importance in the current conjecture is that all nation-states and countries should intensify national efforts against COVID-19 without being isolationist. Isolationism in the current pandemic equates to foolishness. The reality is that the whole world body is sick, and attempts to administer medication on one part of the body will not help in ending the systemic virus, which thus far affected all parts of the world, and certainly disrupted the global economy.
In this context of intensified national efforts that are not isolationist, the WHO is vital, because it is the only platform that avails dependable data of each and every country in the world. The WHO can and should provide consistent dependable data on the disease burden of each and every country, the state and capacity of each country’s health system and facilities. In this regard, resources will be distributed to all corners of the world from each according to capability to each according to need. That’s the only sensible way to escape the wrath of the disease because it will be foolhardy for instance to completely eradicate COVID-19 in one country whilst another cannot.
The African Union and all African Regional bodies must combine efforts in the fight against COVID-19 because it will be senseless to take an isolationist approach since all African countries are integrated. What will be the purpose of South Africa winning the COVID-19 battle whilst Lesotho, which is wholly within the borders of South Africa, fails to contain the virus? Countries with capacity to help their neighbours in the fight against COVID-19 are important as a measure to prevent neo-colonialism and recolonization that will be brought through loans from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other external forces.
The leadership of every country, global organisation, political formation, and whichever sector in these efforts should abandon egomania, which expresses itself as some degree of messianic obsession to want to appear better than others do. Political leaders should abandon narrow partisan and self-gratification pursuits, which seek to gain immediate political and partisan glory at the expense of a global effort to defeat the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amidst these efforts, there is a need to eradicate narcissistic personality disorders amongst leaders. The helpguide.com correctly says that, “it is more accurate to say that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves. And they’re in love with this inflated self-image precisely because it allows them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity. But propping up their delusions of grandeur takes a lot of work—and that’s where the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors come in”.
The helpguide.com further illustrates that, “people with narcissistic personality disorder are extremely resistant to changing their behavior, even when it’s causing them problems. Their tendency is to turn the blame on to others. What’s more, they are extremely sensitive and react badly to even the slightest criticisms, disagreements, or perceived slights, which they view as
personal attacks. For the people in the narcissist’s life, it’s often easier just to go along with their demands to avoid the coldness and rages”.
It is safe to argue that some of the decisions and actions taken by leaders at global, national, and local levels since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic reflect some degree of narcissistic personality disorder. Some of the decisions taken have far-reaching global, national and local consequences and will compromise the efforts to defeat COVID-19.
In pursuit of national efforts, nation-states should do everything in their power to defeat hunger and homelessness. No one should go hungry and no one should be evicted from their homes due to unemployment and no one should be condemned to absolute poverty due to COVID-19 economic consequences.
3) Pay attention to Cuba and its pharmaceutical capacity.
Cuba, an Island in the Caribbean, is often sidelined in mainstream global efforts to fight pandemics and epidemics, despite its massive healthcare and pharmaceutical capacity. The isolation of Cuba is largely due to the trade embargo imposed on this country by the United States for many decades. Since the beginning of the COVID- 19, Cuba is one country that has played an important role in international solidary and practical efforts to combat COVID-19. Cuba has sent medical doctors to Italy, Jamaica, Venezuela, Barbados, South Africa, Angola and many other parts of the world.
In April 2020, The Economist oddly led a new report titled, “Cuba’s doctors are in high demand” which amongst other things said, “Cuba’s Central Medical Collaboration Unit, which for six decades has sent doctors across the world, is having a busy month. Some 14 countries, from Angola to Andorra, have received a total of 800 doctors and nurses. Politicians in Buenos Aires and Valencia in Spain, and indigenous groups in Canada, are pressing national governments to request Cuban brigades”.
The Economist further acknowledges that, “Cuba trains a staggering number of doctors for its size and wealth (42 doctors per 1000 people). Even though its population of 11 million is not young, it has doctors to spare. More than usual are available. In the past 18 months, 9,000 have left Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador and Ecuador, where leftist presidents have recently lost power. According to Granma, Cuba’s state-owned daily newspaper, the number of doctors and nurses abroad fell from more than 50,000 in 2015 to 28,000 in 2020”.
Whilst Cuba’s medical solidarity with many parts of the world is commendable, it is high time the world pays some detailed attention to Cuba’s pharmaceutical capacity and how this should be mainstreamed as part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As argued in the
perspective Lessons from Havana: “despite Cuba’s massive achievements and health indicators that come as a result of maximum focus on primary healthcare, Cuba has developed excellent pharmaceutical capacity through the State-Owned Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology or in Spanish, Centro de Ingeniería Genética y Biotecnología (CIGB)”. It should be highlighted here that Cuba’s Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology established in 1994 is different to the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which was established under the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 1983.
The Cuban CIGB works in more than 20 projects aimed at the obtainment and development of biomedical products for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, cancer, inflammation, autoimmunity, healing and cytoprotection. It comprises the departments of Vaccines, Pharmaceuticals, Immuno-diagnosis and Genomics, Chemical Physics and System Biology, and Control of Scientific-Technical Activity and Administrative. It has 200 workers: 41% holding the degree of Doctor in Sciences and 37% Masters in Sciences.
As part of its programmes and promotion of South-to-South relations, CIGB has built and co-developed state of the art pharmaceutical factors in many parts of the world including in South Africa. The CIGB is part of an umbrella body called BioCubaFarma, which has 38 Enterprises and more than 22 000 qualified workers. BioCubaFarma manufactures generic drugs, therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines, biomedicines, diagnostic systems, and high-tech medical equipment. It also does researches in neuroscience and neuro- technology. In fact, BioCubaFarma domestically manufactures 583 of 881 generic drugs used in Cuba.
Cuba has also established an industrial Development zone, which permits investors to play a role, with security of tenure and protection of investments in the pharmaceutical space. Furthermore, Cuba is willing to transfer skills and technology to the developing countries as evidenced by the partnership with Biovac Institute South Africa. Biovac Institute manufactures different vaccines and some of the vaccines being manufactured are awaiting approval after clinical tests and all the processes that have to be followed.
Due to the successes recorded by Cuba in the past, which includes the development of CimaVax-EGF, a vaccine used to treat cancer, specifically non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) through Cuba’s Center of Molecular Immunology, the world should pay particular attention to Cuba’s pharmaceutical capacity and potential. It is possible that the solution might come from Cuba, but because of the sanctions and senseless trade embargo imposed on Cuba by successive US governments, Cuba’s pharmaceutical presence in the global healthcare system is unduly insignificant.
4) Build healthcare Reserves all over the world.
The outbreak of Corona virus and its global spread with significant fatalities represents the end of the world order, as we know it. The significance of the outbreak is that it is at the same proportions if not more far reaching than the World Wars that occurred in the 20th century with the First World War in 1914 to 1918 and the Second World War in 1939 to 1955. These World Wars significantly defined the world order in almost all its manifestations. Both World Wars gave rise to the militarisation of nation states in such a way that the collective psychology of nation states in the period post the World Wars was underpinned by the need to assemble huge armaments and preparation for another war.
The period post the World Wars positioned the whole world to expend trillions of dollars in stockpiling armaments, building geo-political alliances and establishing command centres in different parts of the world in anticipation of and preparation for another war. The world’s most powerful economy, the United States currently expends more money on its army than the nominal value of all African economies combined. The alliances the US supports and keeps in different parts of the world are not premised on shared values, but on an imaginary anticipation that if another war occurs, those allies will fight on the side of the US.
Governments should build Healthcare Reserve capacity in the same way military reserve capacity were built in the post war era which will now be replaced with the post-Corona era. A Healthcare Reserve capacity will entail that all governments should train not less than 10% of its population with basic but necessary healthcare skills and capacity, which will give the population some intermediary skills to provide healthcare services in the era of pandemics. There is no guarantee that the world will not be confronted with another health pandemic in the foreseeable future, so we need an army of healthcare practitioners who can administer basic healthcare as and when needed.
After flattening the global curve on new infections and thereafter defeating the Corona disease, each and every leader in all parts of the world should appreciate that the post-Corona world should necessarily be a world of global cooperation in terms of healthcare system. All leaders of the world should care about scientifically proven dietary prescriptions, water quality, human settlement spaces, hygiene and health systems of each and every community in the world because a pandemic outbreak that starts in a relatively unknown city of Wuhan has potential to lockdown their entire world, disruption economies, and can exterminate millions of people from the surface of the earth.
Governments must start using electronic platforms to inculcate public health education, not only about COVID-19, but also about all other forms of health burdens. Public health education is often limited to pandemics, and thus far, the biggest killers in the world are diseases, which many people have no intense knowledge of. Public health education is an essential component of primary healthcare and should be promoted every using both traditional and novel social media platforms.
5) Appreciate that the system of global capitalism is not the most suitable in response to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated thus far that without mitigating factors such as lockdowns, social distancing, and strict hygienic practices, it could kill millions if not hundreds of millions of people in a very short space of time. The essential goods, products, equipment and services to fight against the continuing spread of COVID-19 should not be pursued with the profit motive. The profit motive, which is an elementary component of the capitalist mode of production entails that essentials, goods, products and services will only be availed by the private producers, financiers and middlemen only if they are guaranteed profits, not when they are guaranteed that lives will be saved.
Governments should develop mechanisms of decommodification of healthcare essentials in the efforts to contain the further spread of COVID-19. Private healthcare providers should allow the usage of their facilities for the common good, and no patient should be denied healthcare services and hospitalisation on the basis that they do not have money or medical aid or hospital insurance. Capitalist greed should not lead to loss of lives of particularly poor people. The intention and common effort of all people should be to save lives of all people.
The government of Turkey has already appreciated the logical notion that the commodification of essentials is the war against COVID-19 is unacceptable. The Independent reported on the 7th of April that, “this week Turkey launched a website where both citizens and official residents can register to receive five free surgical masks per week delivered by the national postal service. On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced new rules requiring all those in workplaces or markets to wear masks. He later banned the sale of the masks amid accusations of price-gouging”. So, in Turkey, masks, which are essential in containing the spread of the virus are decommodified, and this should apply to other key essentials including medical equipment such as ventilators.
While Bill Gates has positioned himself at the fore of many global public health initiatives, we should remain cautious of the capitalist philanthropy he pursues in his efforts to force through mandatory vaccinations into the global health system. Bill Gates’ capitalist philanthropy, private interests in pharmaceutical companies, proximity to key public and global healthcare initiatives, and the urge to fuse vaccines with digital identification makes many people in the world apprehensive about Gates role.
Global institutions such as the WHO should step to the fore a lead a COVID-19 Global Alliance to tackle the pandemic. Pan continental Organisations, nation states and all sectors should look for a permanent solution the pandemic with an acknowledgment and realization that an isolationist solution to the pandemic will not be sustainable. In pursuit of these solutions, we should pay particular attention to Cuba’s pharmaceutical capacity and appreciate that the capitalist logic will not help in finding a permanent solution.
The emergence of a global pandemic has demonstrated that we need to build a progressive and egalitarian world based on principles of humanity and all national progressive forces should fight for access to quality healthcare. The post COVID-19 world necessarily has to be different from the pre COVID-19 world. Instead of folding arms decrying and conspiring about what the world mega-billionaires and capitalist philanthropists intend to do out of this pandemic, we carry an obligation to provide cogent alternatives on what is to be done.
A significant number of people in many parts of the world are rightfully apprehensive of solutions that will be provided by capitalist philanthropists, hence the call for a globally coordinated solution represents superior logic. Amidst the many voices on what the solutions should be, progressive forces in all parts of the world should fight for universal access to quality healthcare with an appreciation that such access must also entail access to quality water, human settlements, sanitation, nutrition and education. Perhaps these are the most important components of what the global health system needs because it is after all correct that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.
 https://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do AND https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%26_Melinda_Gates_Foundation