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The Case for Global Health Diplomacy

The coronavirus crisis is a reminder of why governments must regard health as an essential component of foreign policy. Much of the current panic could have been prevented had political leaders pursued global health diplomacy instead of adopting impulsive measures such as travel bans.

BOSTON – One of the hallmarks of an effective foreign policy is that it runs in the background, neither loud nor especially visible. Governments must urgently adopt such an approach to stem the growing global panic caused by the coronavirus outbreak, which has now killed more than 1,300 people and infected in excess of 63,000.

Although almost all the deaths and confirmed cases to date have been in mainland China, the virus has spread to more than two dozen countries. The World Health Organization recently declared the outbreak to be a global health emergency.

For the time being, panic reigns. Global technology firms such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Tesla have temporarily suspended their operations in China and asked their employees to work from home. Many foreign airlines, carmakers, retail and entertainment chains, and financial institutions have taken similar measures. And in the United States, Asian-Americans and students from Asian countries are facing a surge in xenophobic comments about their food, culture, and way of life.

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