Coronavirus inaction: Could world leaders have blood on their hands?

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic this week as many countries expanded travel restrictions, shut down schools and universities, and clamped down on large public gatherings in a bid to contain the virus. 

Speaking on Wednesday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in the past two weeks the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold, and expressed deep concern about the spread of the virus. He also raised concerns about "alarming levels of inaction".

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told UpFront that he ranks the global collective effort to contain the coronavirus at B-minus, C-plus.

"I think testing in Korea is absolutely gold standard. But testing in the United States is absolutely abysmal," Feigl-Ding said. 

When asked whether some world leaders potentially have blood on their hands for failing to take action to contain the virus he said: "I think so."

As of 8 March , South Korea had 3 500 tests per million people, the UK had 350 tests per million. In the US, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there had been just five tests per million. Feigl-Ding said the lack of testing in the US, in particular, was a serious problem. 

"You need the testing to do contact tracing, who were they in contact with, locking down, isolation, and that's why without that testing and the investigative team footwork, you cannot contain this epidemic," he said. 

Feigl-Ding believes containment is key, and that people should stick to any quarantines that have been imposed, avoid public spaces and practise social distancing. 

"Unfortunately, I think in certain ways, you have to do extreme social distancing... like all the sports games, public venues. But the draconianism of China, I don't know, because they have the Wuhan lockdown, but they also have residential lockdown for 750 million," he said. 

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