Leadership in Viral Times

Brazil’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta.
Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR (CC BY 2.0).

“Today, the World Health Organization officially announced that this is a global pandemic,” Donald Trump said in his March 11 speech from the Oval Office, adding that his administration had “been in frequent contact with our allies.” He announced a 30-day suspension on all travel from Europe: “…these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.  Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.”

European allies quickly complained that there had been no contact prior to the announcement. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” said a statement by EU leaders.

Shortly after Trump concluded the speech, administration officials had to clarify that the suspension did not apply to goods and cargo. Confidence in Trump’s leadership appeared to be low. The stock market tanked, despite promises by the New York Fed to assist lending markets with substantial sums of money to keep the economy alive. With one of his favorite arguments for reelection in November – the stock market – in danger, Trump left more room for the experts and (arguably) refrained from diminishing the gravity of the situation. 

President Bolsonaro has chosen another way: all or nothing.

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