Yesterday, the UN Secretary General António Guterres warned that the coronavirus outbreak is the biggest global challenge since World War 2. He said it could bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past”. His warning comes amid catastrophic predictions about the possible economic impact of measures imposed to combat the pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases around the world is now nearing 960,000, with more than 48,000 deaths.
The death toll in the US is now more than 5,000 – higher than the declared number of fatalities in China, where the outbreak began at the end of December.
Meanwhile, Spain, second only to Italy in the number of fatalities, has seen 950 deaths in the last 24 hours – the highest number it has had in a single day.
In the UK, a total of 2,350 people have died.
Among the victims was a 13-year-old boy, King’s College Hospital Trust in London said.
With the crisis worsening, 91-year-old American linguist and political analyst Mr Chomsky claimed in a recent interview that COVID-19 is a glaring new example of the cruelty of neoliberal capitalism.
Speaking with Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) co-founder Srecko Horvat on Saturday, the political philosopher argued the pandemic had been predicted long before its appearance, but actions to prepare for such a crisis were barred by the cruel imperatives of an economic order in which “there’s no profit in preventing a future catastrophe”.
He said: “We should think about the origins of this crisis. Why is there a coronavirus crisis?
“It is a colossal market failure.
“It goes right back to the essence of markets, exacerbated by the neoliberal savage, neoliberal intensification of deep social economic problems.
“It was known for a long time that pandemics are very likely.
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Mr Chomsky noted: “The SARS epidemic was overcome 15 years ago.
“The viruses were identified, sequenced, vaccines were available. Labs around the world could have started working right then on developing protection for potential coronavirus pandemics.
“But they didn’t. Why did they not do it?
“Because the market’s signals were wrong.
“We have handed over our fate to drug companies – private tyrannies, corporations, which are unaccountable to the public.”
The political analyst argued that those companies make body creams instead of finding a vaccine that will protect people from total destruction, because it is much more profitable.
Mr Chomsky added: “Polio, at the time, was a terrifying threat. It was ended by the discovery of the Salk vaccine by a government institution, set off by the Roosevelt administration.
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“No patents, it was available to everyone.
“That could have been done this time, but the neoliberal plague has blocked that.”
The activist also noted the “irony” of recent reports that Cuba, which has suffered Western sanctions for decades, is sending doctors to help European countries to fight the coronavirus.
He said: “I mean this is so shocking that you don’t know how to describe it.
“Germany can’t help Greece: but Cuba can help European countries.
“Just as when you see thousands of people dying in the Mediterranean, fleeing from countries Europe has devastated for centuries and being sent to their deaths in the Mediterranean, you don’t know what words to use.”
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