Accuracy in Media

In a new series that Vox calls the “Pandemic Playbook,”  the publication celebrates Vietnam’s travel restrictions imposed to fight COVID.

“This strict approach to travel, global health experts say, is directly connected to Vietnam’s seeming defeat of Covid-19,” Vox reported, while observing that only 35 people have died of the virus in a country of nearly 100 million people. 

It’s a big U-turn from a year ago when Vox was calling travel restrictions “political theater.” 

“But it would be one thing if there were strong evidence that travel bans work to stop the spread of the disease,” wrote Vox on January 23rd, 2020. “Instead, ‘Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,’ said the World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.” 

This is the same Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who oversaw the spread of the worst pandemic in modern history and the cover-up of the origins by China. 

Subsequently, on March 11, 2020, Vox condemned the Trump travel ban from Europe as “xenophobic.”

“This isn’t the first time in history a leader has stoked fears among the public by linking outsiders to germs, of course,” said Vox. “It’s been part of many dark chapters in world history.”

Again, on March 14, 2020, Vox said that “Trump’s European ban makes no sense.”

“Coronavirus knows no borders but borders are the only thing that President Trump knows with regard to Covid-19,” Thomas Bollyky, director of the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Vox.  

At any rate, it made for a good quote even if it proved to be a poor prophecy. 

 In fact, the most notable success stories in fighting local COVID outbreaks, Taiwan and Vietnam, both instituted travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak early for the very good reason that they have suffered from Chinese pandemics before and knew what to expect.  

“The management of the pandemic crisis is widely believed to be a blueprint for many other countries,” writes the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association. “Taiwan’s success did not come out of sheer luck. Instead, Taiwan has taken a series of actions after the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in governmental reorganization, medical care system preparedness, and public engagement.”

Most important in that blueprint: By the end of January 2020, both Taiwan and Vietnam had either canceled travel from China or instituted monitoring of people who came from areas in China that saw outbreaks.  

Perhaps it’s progress that Vox — and maybe the experts who appear not-so-expert at pandemics — have acknowledged that cutting off travel from areas affected by pandemics might be the most effective tool of all — if taken early. 

Because the only sure thing isn’t if there will be another pandemic, but when it will strike. 

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