“Epidemics are tests of social and political systems” writes Simukai Chigudu, in a fascinating article for the online platform, Africa Is A Country. Chigudu is a Zimbabwean academic and Associate Professor of African Politics at the University of Oxford. Citing his book, The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe, which looked into the roots of the 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, he notes that it is the “political, economic and social processes that … shape the trajectory of [an] epidemic” not just the biological properties of the virus or bacterium involved.
This is not to say the actions of governments are not important. The trajectory and the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic so far have been largely dictated by the actions of states. The thousands of lives it has so far claimed are not evenly distributed globally, but rather concentrated in countries that for a variety of reasons either didn’t take the pandemic seriously or were slow to react to it. In a very real sense, it is not just the virus that is killing people. They are also dying from state inaction, incompetence and malfeasance.