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I don’t remember it well

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The WHO is planning to shape the global response to the next pandemic

There’s a saying that if you remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. If that’s you, or if you’re suffering from long-term drug-fueled amnesia, try googling “What happened in 1968?” and you’ll discover that it was a busy, news-packed year.

Two good men—Dr Martin Luther King Jr and presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy—were assassinated, North Vietnam launched the Tet offensive, the Beatles recorded the White Album, the first jumbo jet took off, two black athletes staged a silent protest at the Mexico Olympics against racial discrimination in the US and Apollo 8 orbited the moon.

But google as much as you like, and you won’t see any reference to the Hong Kong flu outbreak, which also happened that year and affected almost every nation. According to Wikipedia, “Worldwide deaths from the virus peaked in December 1968 and January 1969, when public health warnings and virus descriptions had been widely issued in the scientific and medical journals.

“In Berlin, the excessive number of deaths led to corpses being stored in subway tunnels, and in West Germany, garbage collectors had to bury the dead because of a lack of undertakers. In total, East and West Germany registered 60,000 estimated deaths.

“In some areas of France, half of the workforce was bedridden, and manufacturing suffered large disruptions because of absenteeism. The UK postal and rail services were also severely disrupted.”

Eventually, Hong Kong flu, an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus, claimed the lives of around 4 million people around the world, and it was described as one of the deadliest outbreaks in history.

And as if to prove the adage, I was there but don’t remember it at all. Schools weren’t closed, nobody wore masks, everyone went to work, there were no lockdowns, restaurants and cinemas stayed open, and the only vaccines that were developed were handed out to the military.

Eventually, during the first few months of 1969, the epidemic petered out as people developed a natural resistance to the virus.

Compare and contrast that to the Covid-19 response, and you’ll possibly agree with Eugyppius, a contributor to the Daily Sceptic website, that a pandemic is a social construct, or, more precisely, our response to a pandemic is. Nudged on by Project Fear, we were happy to give up our basic freedoms, deny education to our young and queue up for vaccines that hadn’t been properly tested.

And, henceforth, a pandemic won’t be a social construct ever again. Instead, it will be determined by the World Health Organization (WHO), which will also override national government to shape the global response. The Pandemic Agreement isn’t quite that yet, as nobody has agreed to it, but that’s likely to change in May at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Essentially, the agreement will seek to ensure there is an equitable solution to the next pandemic. In short, the West won’t have the monopoly on the next round of vaccines; instead, the jabs will be fairly distributed to developing nations as well.

The agreement also seeks to tackle not one but two viral outbreaks at the same time. The first we all know about—the actual virus that sneakily escapes from a laboratory near you—and the second is the infodemic (don’t look it up; the WHO has just made it up).

The WHO defines an infodemic as “too much information, including false or misleading information, in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak. It causes confusion and risk-taking behaviors that can harm health. It also leads to mistrust in health authorities and undermines public health and social measures.”

So, don’t tell people too much; it just confuses them (even if it’s true).

The agreement doesn’t outline just how information will be controlled so people don’t get too much of it, nor does it explain how any of its wishful thinking will be enacted in the real world. Will the US health agencies deny Americans their “lifesaving” vaccine so that half the stock can be shipped to Africa? And in an election year? Really?

But then, the agreement is just that—a whole series of pleasant, well-intended ideas that will crash and burn on the hard concrete highway of reality.

Quite reminds me of the 1960s.

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Article Topics: Covid, Covid-19 virus, pandemic
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