What coronavirus has taught us about inequality | Inequality | Al Jazeera
The Global North’s response to the pandemic was in many ways similar to Europe’s xenophobic responses to the plagues of distant history. It not only rushed to close itself up to foreigners in an effort to keep the disease out, but many in these countries responded to the crisis with irrational panic, xenophobia and racism. From the US to the UK, people of Asian descent faced racist and xenophobic attacks, as people irrationally held them responsible for the outbreak.
Overall, the countries in the Global North failed to see the global nature of the crisis we are currently facing. As they rushed to protect their own, they once again succumbed to old tropes about epidemics being caused by “dirty and strange others”.
Furthermore, they failed to recognise the need for a global public health strategy to contain the current COVID-19 pandemic and similar disease outbreaks that can come in the future. Instead, they focused on themselves and themselves only. Washington, for example, has reportedly offered German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine a lot of money to give the US exclusive access to their work.
Pandemics do not materialise in isolation. They are part and parcel of capitalism and colonisation. The countries that struggled to contain and control major epidemics in the recent past, from Haiti to Sierra Leone, had deficient public health systems prior to these crises, partially as a result of their colonial histories. Moreover, products of capitalism – from war to migration to mass production and increased travel – contribute massively to the proliferation of diseases.