I have a special affection for the people of Kerala, one of India’s 36 states on its southwest coast. During my first sabbatical to India in 1992, I did research at a Roman Catholic seminary in Bangalore. I enjoyed living with students, brothers, and priests from Kerala.
With 36 million people, Kerala has the best education system in India (95 percent literacy vs. 74 percent nationwide) and its health care system is the best in the third world. Leftist governments and a committed Christian minority have contributed to this amazing achievement.
Incredibly enough, Kerala has slightly more hospital beds per capita than the U.S. At his TED Talk (9/11/14), Swedish doctor Hans Rosling observed that Kerala, with only $3,000 per person per year, “matches the U.S. in health.”
In 2018, Kerala’s health officials acted expeditiously in combating the Nipah virus, a bat-borne illness that had a deadly 91 percent fatality rate. The government contained the virus within a month by imposing village curfews, contact tracing, and strict quarantine of those infected.
These same measures were reactivated as soon as news broke about COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. Kerala was fully ready for its first case: a medical student returning from Wuhan on Jan. 24. As of June 2, Kerala had reported a total of 1,413 cases and 12 deaths, by far the best record in India.
Vietnam’s Communist government (not democratically elected as is Kerala’s) has had great success against COVID-19. With 97 million people Vietnam leads the world in one significant statistic: virus tests per confirmed cases — leading the U.S. by a factor of 10. Exhaustive contact tracing and strict quarantine has led to an astounding result: Vietnam, right on China’s door-step with extensive trade and thousands of Chinese tourists, has reported no COVID-19 deaths.
Some say that Vietnam’s Communist government must have cheated, but Oxford’s public health expert Guy Thwaits insists: “I go to the wards, I know the cases, I know there has been no death.” With regard to virus death deception, it is some of our southern states that are the culprits.
When anti-lockdown Americans and their politicians boast about low infection rates, they are ignorant of the fact that without widespread testing, it is impossible to tell who is carrying the virus.
Iceland, for example, has now tested and retested all of its citizens, and officials found that half of those who tested positive were not showing any symptoms. The result of having an accurate number of confirmed cases is that Iceland now has a reliable death rate comparable to East Asian nations (.5 percent) as opposed to the U.S. at an unreliable 5.8 percent.
On Jan. 20, the Taiwanese government activated its Central Epidemic Command Center, one day before it reported its first case of COVD-19. Even before that, on Dec. 31, Taiwan sent medical officials to Wuhan to find out as much as they could about the suspected virus, not yet known as COVID-19.
At that time Taiwan received permission to screen all airline passengers from Wuhan to its airports. In stark contrast, 4,000 passengers from Wuhan arrived in the U.S. before Trump’s travel ban, which, even after it was in place leaked like a sieve. Because of its high testing rate, Taiwan is second in the world behind Vietnam for the number of tests for each confirmed case. With 24 million people, Taiwan currently has 441 cases and only seven deaths.
The Trump administration had already removed two-thirds of the funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s presence in China, so the U.S. had no eyes on the ground in Wuhan.
The abysmal lack of leadership at the federal level and Trump’s dismissal of medical science have led to national disunity with widespread confusion, misinformation and far too much risky behavior.
I’m grieving the loss of more than 107,000 American lives (at least tens of thousands preventable) because Trump did not follow the examples of Kerala, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Adding Asia’s other COVID champions — Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea — for a dense population of 222 million, the U.S. proportion of deaths, following East Asian protocols, could have been 488.
Nick Gier is professor emeritus at the University of Idaho.Email him at email@example.com.