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The School of International Regional Studies is a research and educational centre seeking to revive international regional studies as an academic discipline in Russia. The department’s world-class professors train the next generation of regional studies specialists while developing an increasingly prestigious research school.
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The meeting was organized by Professor Vera Vishnyakova, Head of the HSE School of International Regional Studies of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, among the invited experts Sergey Luzyanin, Head of the Joint Department with the RAS Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the HSE University; Natalya Melekhina, Associate Professor of MGIMO University; Natalya Zamaraeva, Candidate of Historical Sciences of the Center of the Near and Middle East Studies.
Professor Naeem started his speech from global outlook of the pandemic, moving gradually to local cases of different countries. He noted that the virus hadn’t been treated as serious threat while it was only in Asia, while Asia has an experience of overcoming viruses, until COVID-19 spread in Europe. The Western governments that were accusing China for totalitarism started to look up at the state overcoming the pandemic.
The expert investigated the cases of two countries that before the pandemic were the global leaders: United Kingdom and the United States and failed in addressing the health issue. The main problem for both states was previous privatization of the entire health care system and abruptly shortened the spends for hospital facilities. This lack of financing and developing human capital caused the great loses in current crisis. Both states were spending more money to infrastructure then to medical services or education. This has made the health services extremely expensive, thus not all the citizens can afford it. This can be clearly seen on the example of the US, where the poor population comprises a big part of the total population and can be seen from the number of casualties there. The expert stressed that the entire health system of the US should be modernised, while now, due to a single-pay system the governmental money goes not to the hospitals, but to the insurance companies.
Professor Naeem explained that several years ago the Prime Minister Tony Blair started the massive campaign of transmission of the hospitals from state to private holders, what had dramatically reduced the number of hospitals and in current situation caused the lack of self-protection kits that were later bought from China. However, the UK still denies the problems in its health system. As opposed to United Kingdom, the expert used an example of Germany that was able to send the nurses from state hospitals to evaluate the conditions of the patients for deciding about their further allocation.
The global change of the attitude to the non-democratic regimes can be seen not only with the example of China. Vietnam that imposed very strict quarantine is for now the only country that doesn’t have death cases from COVID-19 and Cuba that has been under sanctions for a long period of time is now a health care model copied in the world, the country is sending brigades of doctors all over the world. The most vulnerable case happened in Italy, when the EU failed to help its member-state and the medical aid came from China, Russia and Cuba.
Talking about the situation in Pakistan, Professor Naeem noted that the health system there is very fragile, while it receives only 5 per cent from total state budget. However, the economic situation there leaves much to be desired, what made the authorities of the country lift the lockdown, though the situation is still unstable and consequently the number of deaths increased dramatically. One of the problems mentioned by the expert was unequal distribution of medical supplies among the elites and common people. The other important issue was the publicity: when some doctors died because of lack of personal protection equipment, the officials were trying to hide these cases.
At the end of the lecture the expert provided several suggestions for the state overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. First of all, the states should pay a great attention to the health care system and provide an equal access of all citizens to it. Secondly, the states should have the emergency funds and not only invest money into army and infrastructure. Thirdly, one of the most important issues is to educate and train people, so the state can take control and make a rapid response in critical moments, as it happened in China, Vietnam and New Zealand. The literacy campaigns aimed at explaining people the need of the lockdown the rules of conduct in the crisis are desperately needed, otherwise the ruling elites would fail in communicating with common people.