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Huge questions over leadership

The world is in the grip of a deadly crisis, with millions of people forced into isolation in efforts to halt the spread of the Covid-19 or coronavirus disease that has claimed thousands of lives.

The impact of this Sars-CoV-2 virus, which struck first in China, has been felt in just about every country, including our island home, Bermuda.

This unprecedented event has been described as a war with an invisible enemy, capable of moving from person to person and leaving heavy loss of life, and a trail of broken lives. No one is completely safe from this lethal disease, which medical experts are scrambling to understand and for which hopefully a vaccine could be found that would offer protection similar to what is now used against the flu.

Meanwhile, the world has been forced to take steps that no one would have envisioned six months ago.

When a country the size of India, with a population in the billions, is forced to order people to stay at home for 21 days to slow the pace of the virus, it should be clear that isolation is vital in saving as many lives as possible.

Leaders in many countries have had to take this drastic step, despite being aware that there would be tremendous hardship for families, especially the poor. Despite this dilemma, officials were left with no alternative since this highly contagious disease moves like a thief in the night, attacking people of all ages, with no regard for position or status.

This is truly a time when the quality of leadership comes under the world microscope, as lives depend on whether economic growth is considered more important than human lives.

America, viewed as a leader among powerful nations because of its wealth and military might, is the subject of questionable leadership over its response to the coronavirus attack, whose death toll mounts daily. In any democracy, the people have every right to voice concerns when, through words and actions, a leader seems out touch with reality in confronting a deadly health crisis that has affected so many.

Leaders, especially in large, diverse countries, should always display values of defending truth and decency. And, while no leader will ever please everyone, their legacy should be that they are seen as trying to put the welfare of people above political status in all their duties.

In other words, truth should never be some type of guessing game when lives are at stake.

The free press, who are charged with probing and questioning matters of concern to the people, should never cease in the task of seeking accountability from those responsible for promoting democratic values.

The World Health Organisation, which monitors the current pandemic, has declared that the United States could become the epicentre of the disease, as cases mount hourly throughout the nation. All this, as Democrats and Republicans were locking horns over an economic package to help the nation survive an economic plunge, as much of the business world was brought to a grinding halt.

Medical experts warned that the duration of the shutdown would really depend on how much success is achieved in trying to bring the situation under control. It is at this point where America's leadership hit a new low in dealing with facts about this disease that has overcrowded hospitals, with many facilities in short supply of protective gear for medical workers on the front line.

In New York, the Governor, Andrew Cuomo, urgently appealed directly to the Federal Government for ventilators, and noted that without an adequate supply, many would die.

With so many people ill, New York, along with many other states, has been forced to convert some large buildings into makeshift hospitals, with an appeal for more nurses and doctors to assist in treating the sick. It should also be noted that medical staff are not immune from the virus, and in many countries, doctors and nurses have died while trying to help others. That has resulted in a greater strain in trying to respond.

This is perhaps why many medical experts were stunned to hear President Donald Trump declare that he wanted America to resume business operations by Easter, only a matter of weeks away. One observer said if America followed that directive, without any regard for the present crisis, it could lead to millions of Americans dying as they mingled and spread the disease, which is already out of control. It really raises questions about leadership and whether political motives are hindering the ability to be honest and truthful with the people. When people feel they are not getting the truth from their leader, be it a small or large country, they lose confidence and that creates further problems.

When the media is accused of poor journalism for asking questions the people want answered, democracy itself is on shaky ground.

Most people want leaders to be firm and truthful in carrying out their duties in serving the people with dignity. This is not a time for political posturing because too much is at stake for millions of Americans, who want their nation to overcome the crisis and continue the struggle to ensure that quality of life for each person is placed above political ambitions.

Most people want America to be successful without so much negativity in the air. There are many problems around the world, with people suffering from conditions unrelated to the pandemic, and there is much to be done in those areas. Leadership will play a role if priorities are based on good values.

Meanwhile, the world remains deeply focused on bringing a deadly virus under control, and the only way at the moment is by keeping people isolated until it is clear that the virus has run its course.

With lessons learnt from this crucial period in our history, it should help the world to be better prepared for similar challenges in future. How we come out of this will depend on leaders who are willing to be truthful with values that put the welfare of the people first.

In the hot seat: Donald Trump speaks at the White House yesterday (Photograph by Patrick Semansky/AP)

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Published March 30, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 30, 2020 at 8:50 am)

Huge questions over leadership

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