A baffled world is watching as the US is overrun by COVID-19 infections and deaths — with no end in sight

salarshani@businessinsider.com (Sarah Al-Arshani)
·4 min read
Trump Fauci
President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, back in April when Fauci still appeared at briefings.
  • Political leaders in countries across the world are baffled as the US, once seen as a superpower, struggles to get the coronavirus outbreak under control.

  • Across 13 countries including Canada, Australia, and Spain, the US has been viewed in the most negative light over the past year, and they are especially critical of the US's handling of the pandemic.

  • The disapproval goes beyond the pandemic and extends to the actions taken by President Donald Trump.

  • Some officials told The New York Times that Trump's rhetoric and actions are eroding democracy globally.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Related: 6 months of coronavirus in the USA, reviewed in 6 minutes

Officials in countries across the world are puzzled about how the United States has been so badly afflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The US has recorded over 7 million COVID-19 cases with over 203,000 deaths, the highest of any country — and with no end to the pandemic in sight.

"I feel sorry for Americans," U Myint Oo, a member of parliament in Myanmar told The New York Times. "But we can't help the US because we are a very small country."

The Pew Research Center's Summer 2020 Global attitudes survey, which looked into how favorable 13 countries viewed the US on a variety of topics, reported that the US's image has "plummeted" internationally since President Donald Trump took office, but the country's image is especially low due to the handling of the pandemic.

Across 13 countries, including Canada, Australia, and Spain, the US has been viewed in the most negative light over the past year, compared to years past. They are especially critical of the US's handling of the pandemic according to Pew.

"Across the 13 nations surveyed, a median of just 15% say the US has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak," the Pew report said.

The highest rating was Spain at just 20% of respondents saying the US is doing a good job dealing with the outbreak, according to the Pew survey.

Some officials told The Times they were concerned about how a global superpower could crumble due to a virus.

Earlier this summer, the European Union was so concerned about the spread of COVID-19 from Americans that they banned US travelers.

"The USA is a first-world country but it is acting like a third-world country," U Aung Thu Nyein, a political analyst in Myanmar, told The Times.

Additionally, while other residents have said that their own nations have done well to handle the outbreak, only in the US and the United Kingdom did respondents give their respective countries poor marks.

In July, The Washington Post reported that as Americans lost faith in their own country's handling of the pandemic, as well as social unrest, the world also began to "question the United States' appetite or capacity for a collaborative leadership role at a time when the health and economic crises call out for committed global cooperation."

Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city on the border with Michigan told The Times that seeing what's happening in the US is "like watching the decline of the Roman Empire."

The Times reported that the negative views go beyond just the pandemic, and apply to Trump and his administration, who several foreign politicians and analysts said appear to have left democratic values behind. Many are concerned about the ongoing protests for racial justice and comments made by Trump to not accept the election results.

"We used to look to the US for democratic governance inspiration," Eduardo Bohórquez, the director of Transparency International Mexico told The Times. "Sadly, this is not the case anymore."

Yenny Wahid, an Indonesian politician, and activist told The Times she's concerned over Trump's rhetoric that undermines democratic values could embolden dictators elsewhere.

"The world sees the dismantling of social cohesion within American society and the mess in managing COVID," Wahid said. "There is a vacuum of leadership that needs to be filled, but America is not fulfilling that leadership role."

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