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April 2, 2020

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Inconvenient truth about the missed opportunity

Today, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak is in the US and Europe.

How did this happen? How could it happen?

At the end of January, WHO declared the ongoing virus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Instead of mobilization, major European economies followed the virus crisis as if it were a “Chinese problem.”

The complacency was compounded by the concurrent media coverage, which was often sensational and misguided, contributing to the “infodemic.”

After mid-January, China initiated effective measures to contain the virus and the story was all over in international headlines.

In Europe, the first coronavirus cases were detected just days later, on January 24, in Bordeaux and Paris, along with a cluster of infections that were discovered in Haute-Savoie. In Germany, the first case was confirmed on January 27; in Italy, four days later; in Spain and the UK, on January 31.

And yet, thereafter, weeks of mobilization were missed as major European countries hoped for the best but didn’t prepare for the worst.

Costs of complacency

That’s how inadequate preparedness ensured the virus a free ride, which resulted in an explosion of local transmissions in late February.

By yesterday confirmed cases outside China exceeded 660,000.

Here’s the inconvenient truth about the missed opportunity: On February 4, there were only 25 confirmed cases in Europe. When serious mobilization began around mid-March, the number of those cases had exploded more than 1,000-fold to 28,000 in the five major European economies, while the total had soared to about 35,000.

These human costs, which have not yet peaked, and the consequent economic costs, which will explode in the coming weeks and over the coming 6-18 months, are truly staggering. Yet, the tragedy was not inevitable. It is the result of complacency, inadequate preparedness and missed opportunities.

Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist of the multipolar world and founder of Difference Group. For more, see


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