Observations of an Expat: Nation v the World

I told you so. In all humility, I was not alone. The WHO issued a veritable flood of dire warnings. Dozens of NGOs did the same. So did an army of globalists who argued that common sense dictated that Covid is a global problem that requires global cooperation to save lives and a world economy of which we are all a part.

We argued that Africa, with poor its health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus that would find its way north and bite a Europe and America that ignored Africa firmly in the bum.

I may be overstating the case. Scientists are waiting for more data before a judgement on the seriousness of the Omicron variant. So far there appears to be good news and bad news in initial reports from Africa and the 29 non-African countries to which it has spread in a matter of days.

But there is good reason to believe that the Omicron mutant may not have developed, or we would be able to control it better, if the developed world had made more vaccines available to the developing world through the WHO’s Covax scheme. Their support was Scrooge-like at best. They made noises and then dispatched a few million here and another million there to a continent which required ten billion of doses.

The result is that an estimated 60 percent of Europeans have been vaccinated and only seven percent of Africans. One billion doses in Europe were destroyed because they were not distributed before their sell-by date.

At the root of this problem is the conflict between the needs of the nation state versus the needs of the world as a whole and the inability of the national politician and their public to comprehend that the two complement more than they compete. Unfortunately, that view fails to win votes.

It is an instinct that when faced with fear based on problems such as disease, immigration or economic disaster, to withdraw behind borders; pull up the drawbridge; lock the doors and shutter the windows. But it is wrong. The virus ignores all those barriers.

Covid is not the only example of the need for counter intuitive international cooperation and statesmanship. Climate change is an even bigger and arguably more important challenge. The pandemic will hopefully become endemic and cease to rule our daily lives. But if nothing is done about global warming the waters will continue to rise and rise and…

And yet China and India managed to scupper the COP26 climate change conference with their last minute spanner to protect their national interest by allowing fossil fuel production, especially coal, at indeterminate levels. It should be clear that they were not the only villains of the piece. Cheering them from the sidelines were Australia, America’s Republican Party, The OPEC countries and Russia.

Even Norway—which is usually associated with the environmental lobby—argued that they should maintain their profitable offshore oil operations. A government spokesman explained: “We use very little the oil. So, it is not our responsibility to reduce production. It is the responsibility of the consumers.”

Then there is migration. There were 47.5 million displaced people in the world in 2020, and that was before Western withdrawal from another estimated 3 million. They are victims of climate change, war, and acute poverty. In many instances their problems are the direct consequence of developed world policies.

And yet they are vilified by many in Europe and America when they seek to cross vast land masses or seas to improve their lives or, in many cases, to simply pursue the survival instinct. Governments respond by erecting walls, razor wire fences, and, in some cases (Britain) actually cut overseas aid that helped people stay in the countries of their origin.

They argue amongst themselves about responsibility for the refugees. Sometimes the refugees are used as political pawns (Belarus and to a lesser extent Turkey) to extract money and concessions. In other countries (Britain and France) they are exploited for votes from the large and loud xenophobic minority.

The migration problem, like the pandemic and climate change, can only be solved through international cooperation. In this case involving investment, trade, security guarantees, overseas aid and internationally agreed rules and methods for migration. But this is unlikely to happen because the perceived the needs of the nation state v the refugees.

In modern history there are probably only one and a half attempts to solve world problems with international cooperation. The half was the creation of the League of Nations whose failure was one of the main causes of World War Two. It took the tragedy of an estimated 80 million deaths in the Second Great War to persuade politicians that an international body—the United Nations and its constituent organisations—was needed. It does much good work, but unfortunately it has been perennially hamstrung by the national interests of its membership.

The coronavirus pandemic had claimed 5,215,414 lives as of 0900 GMT 3 December 2021. This is still far short of the wartime figures. But the WHO has predicted another 700,000 deaths in Europe alone by the end of February. This was before Omicron made its entrance. What lethal figure must be reached for the developed nations to accept that Covid in their countries and others can only be defeated through international cooperation?

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • One problem with the United Nations is the allowance of vetoes. For example, criticism of Israel’s behaviour gets vetoed by America.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Dec '21 - 1:08pm

    Tom you are giving a very strong and necessary bite and anger to the issues herein.

    Most of what you say is expressing yourself in ways I applaud and associate with.

    However, you miss and misunderstand one or two as well, in my view, as do most liberals and those on thje liberal left and right.

    One of the main contradictions is the fact that, as well as to cooperate, yes, absolutely essential, we needed to cooperatively shut borders. You, in common with so many, see that to cooperate for some reason requires a border free approach. Not so, if all the world had helped each other, the rich subsidising the poor, tourism and travelling could have stopped. Climate change would have lessened had planes not been used. If only essential flights had happened, quarantined passengers everywhere the policy, no variant would have emerged, if in keeping with your other, correct approach, mass vaccine programmes for all nations.

    It is travelling that has spread this. It is mixing within borders and beyond. I we had all emphasised our individual, local, virtual possibility, we could have stuck it to the first and as it would have perhaps been, solitary covid.

    It is complete cooperation with others we needed and do. And to cooperate by keeping a distance.

  • The WHO issued a veritable flood of dire warnings. Dozens of NGOs did the same. So did an army of globalists who argued that…

    It’s not who says what that matters, or even their qualifications and experience, but the quality and quantity of evidence that they present in support of their argument. Today, many organisations and activist-‘scientists’ make all sorts of fallacious claims in order to further a political or economic agenda – so-called ‘policy based evidence making’. In the words of the Royal Society motto: nullius in verba.

    We argued that Africa, with poor its health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus…

    The Omicron variant was first genome sequenced in South Africa. They conduct a lot of sequencing compared to most other countries. It’s not known if it originated there or even in Africa. The Alpha (‘Kent’) variant was first sequenced in the UK, but subsequently found to have existed earlier in Italy.

  • …there is good reason to believe that the Omicron mutant may not have developed, or we would be able to control it better, if the developed world had made more vaccines available to the developing world…

    Such claims would require substantive evidence to support them. Phylogenomic evidence suggests the Omicron variant originated early in the pandemic before any vaccine was available and may possibly have done so in a chronically infected patient or an animal host…

    ‘Where did ‘weird’ Omicron come from?’ [1st. December 2021]:

    Omicron clearly did not develop out of one of the earlier variants of concern, such as Alpha or Delta. Instead, it appears to have evolved in parallel — and in the dark. Omicron is so different from the millions of SARS-CoV-2 genomes that have been shared publicly that pinpointing its closest relative is difficult, says Emma Hodcroft, a virologist at the University of Bern. It likely diverged early from other strains, she says. “I would say it goes back to mid-2020.”

    ‘Some experts suggest Omicron variant may have evolved in an animal host’ [2nd. December 2021]:

    The theory goes that some type of animal, potentially rodents, was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus sometime in mid-2020. In this new species, the virus evolved, accumulating roughly 50 mutations on the spike protein before spilling back over into people.

    Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute, is among those who has been raising the idea that Omicron may have emerged from a reverse zoonotic event. […]

    Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane Medical School, has been tracking the SARS-2 mutations that have arisen. Seven are associated with rodent adaptation — the changes that seemed to allow the virus to infect mice, rats, and related species. All seven of those mutations are in Omicron, Garry noted. He believes it’s a toss-up whether the variant developed in an animal or a human host, but if it’s the former, his bet would be on rodents.

  • Peter Martin 5th Dec '21 - 11:35am

    “We argued that Africa, with poor its health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus that would find its way north and bite a Europe and America that ignored Africa firmly in the bum.”

    It could have been anywhere else, like India or South America. Our experience with influenza should give us some indication of what is possible. A combination of vaccine induced and natural immunity leads to a particular strain dying out but then a new strain which is resistant to both natural immunity and the immunity caused by vaccines emerges and we have to deal with that. The unvaccinated can only do that by direct exposure to the virus and those who are vaccinated rely on the development of new modified vaccines to induce the immunity without having to catch anything.

    The vaccines and the disease trigger the same, or a similar, response in the body so there is no reason to think that the emergence of a new strain can be averted by a successful vaccination program. Success against the flu has always been only temporary and it looks like success against Covid will only be temporary too.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t increase our Aid to Africa and other parts of the world but it probably isn’t any more realistic to expect that Covid will be eradicated by vaccines than will be the flu. Neither am I saying that Covid is no more dangerous than flu. It certainly is for older people but the high level of asymptomatic infections in younger people will always tend to be a battleground between the virus and human antibodies – both naturally and vaccine induced.

  • @Peter Martin

    “Neither am I saying that Covid is no more dangerous than flu. It certainly is for older people ”

    The problem is Peter it is not just a case of who covid is more “directly” dangerous for, it is what effect it has on public health as a whole and the “indirect” danger it poses.

    As I pointed out on another thread

    “On January 24th 2021 the UK had 4077 people on mechanical ventilation beds
    considering the UK only has 5,900 critical care beds, of which only 70% are for adults (4130) the rest are for Paediatric and Neonatal
    When looked at this way, surely even the most ardent anti-lock down types can acknowledge just how close things were for the NHS.
    Yes they expanded ICU capacity to cope under emergency measures by converting Surgical wards to ICU wards etc, however, this is at the expense of elective surgery, hence the reason we have so many people with delayed treatment.

    If ICU’s are at or near capacity with Covid Patients, then that puts us all and public health as a whole at risk……..”

    I believe there was still something like 5 Million people in the uk over 50 who had not received a vaccine at all, were a significant portion of those to end up with a serve case of covid needing hospital treatment because they chose to not get vaccinated that poses a significant risk to our health system for which we all rely on

  • @Lorenzo. I don’t recall saying I was opposed to closing borders. I think it was right to close borders as part of a strategy which included making the vaccine more available to the developing world through the Covax scheme.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Dec '21 - 4:04pm


    You as always here are sensible and realistic. With this too much in fact. There is no pandemic ever that we as a species have made endemic. They all ceased or became irrelevant . Your acceptance of this, as a flue scenario, under these conditions, a new variant, is not anything but defeatism, in its being so probably realistic.

    I maintain the world could beat this. I am someone who knows that wars defeat enemies. My fsather lived under Mussolini as a boy. Italy changed sides. We as a species could change approach!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Dec '21 - 4:08pm


    Great piece, this is not and ought not to be seen as a flue. Your reason is the best, practically as in this country with a very poor level of publiuc provision hugely overrated, we fail on emergency ward everything!

    The other reason it ought not be taken as a flue, is we defeat pandemics historically, and they more or less dissapear. Flue does not. Why accept that, you and I ask, and few else!


    Very good you say that for clarity, but I wopuldn’t presume otherwise as you are a very clever fellow!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Dec '21 - 4:09pm

    Flu, not flue, sorry, typos!

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Alex Macfie
    @Peter Martin: No-one was saying that at all, except maybe @Adam who is relying on BtL comments on news articles which cannot be taken as representative of anyt...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Chris, Adam and David, So can we all agree (except perhaps Alex ) that being in favour of the EU does require uncritical support? This is a big problem...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Adam: I rarely read BtL comments in newspaper articles as they tend not to be representative of public opinion. All I can say is that such opinions as you have...
  • Adam
    "Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it’s scarcely surprising t...
  • David Allen
    Peter Martin, "In practice, we seldom, if ever, see any criticism of the EU from its supporters." Yeah, yeah, yeah. When the Tories make a political broa...