George W Bush had an excellent pandemic plan, but the West ...

World

George W Bush had an excellent pandemic plan, but the West ignored it

He and Dick Cheney ordered scientists to devise a social distancing strategy, but it was not used for Covid-19

Paul Nuki

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Imagine if a world leader, a president with unlimited resources, had marshalled a crack team of leading scientists to devise a pandemic strategy that could have prevented a new respiratory virus from turning Western society upside down. A strategy designed to hold back a lethal new virus long enough to allow a vaccine or other pharmaceutical interventions to be created without the need for an economically crushing lockdown. A strategy that was not just academic and evidence based but one which had been adopted as policy, operationalised and shared with allies around the world.

Looking at the world today you would think it was China and its neighbours across southeast Asia that had created that protocol. They are the nations that acted quickly to control Covid-19 through a carefully crafted set of social distancing measures or “non-pharmaceutical interventions” and have dramatically limited damage to their economies and geopolitical power as a result. Yes, they have taken a hit but national lockdowns have been brief or avoided completely, as have large-scale excess deaths, direct and indirect.

The truth is entirely different, and you don’t need hindsight to unearth it. It was the unlikely duo of George W Bush, the former US president, and his vice-president Dick Cheney who ordered that an early social distancing plan be researched, devised and tested, and who saw to it that it was in place and ready to be deployed before they left office in 2009...

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