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Fatal consequences of denying science: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2020-09-29 21:44
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In a statement released after the world passed the "agonizing milestone" of 1 million COVID-19 fatalities, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, gave a reminder of the human heartache behind this "mind-numbing figure".

"They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues," he said, noting that the universal custom of mourning and celebrating the lives of those who had died was often impossible because of the risk of infection.

That he had to issue what was in effect a call for empathy is a sad indictment of the science-denying actions of some governments and individuals. Actions that mean there is still no end in sight to the devastating public health crisis and the upheaval it has caused.

The number of deaths and infections, more than 33 million people having been infected with the novel coronavirus worldwide, are mind-blowing. Yet at a regular news briefing on Monday, the World Health Organization warned current statistics underestimated actual infections and deaths.

And there is an even more worrying aspect to the story — there is no sign that the pandemic is abating.

In a number of countries, reports of infections keep increasing in stunning numbers. Even in the United States, where COVID-19 induced fatalities have crossed the 200,000 mark, substantial upticks are being reported in multiple states. Daily newly confirmed cases continue to hover above 40,000 from time to time in the US, prompting the US' leading infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci to warn about potential rise in fatalities as the annual influenza season approaches.

Sadly, responses to the public health crisis continue to be inadequate. At the government level, despite the WHO's insistence that countries show more solidarity, politicizing the pandemic and passing the buck for its spread have to a great extent dominated the international discourse on the still unfolding crisis. This has shattered hopes for effective international coordination and cooperation. More outrageous still has been some politicians' refusal to adopt science-based professional advice on how to contain the epidemic, which has already resulted in the loss of human lives that should and could have been avoided.

On the individual level, we have witnessed continuous disregard and denial of the severity of the state of affairs by some who remain convinced the pandemic is a hoax or regard the containment measures intended to save lives as restrictions on their personal liberty. Their refusal to wear masks and socially distance, which are proven ways to limit the spread of the virus, makes them accomplices of the deadly disease.

Politicization has greatly damaged the image and persuasiveness of the WHO as the global public health watchdog, leading to some of its critical warnings falling on deaf ears. But facts have proven the science deniers wrong.

The WHO has again sounded alarm, warning it is "not impossible" for the COVID-19 death toll to double before safe and reliable vaccines become available if countries do not work together to contain the virus.

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