Four US senators are scrambling to explain why they sold stocks after receiving non-public briefings in January on the threat of the coronavirus. Facing calls for his resignation for selling as much as $1.72m in stocks weeks before the market crashed, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Republican Senator Richard Burr, asked congressional investigators to probe whether his actions amounted to insider trading.
Senator Kelly Loeffler another Republican Senator sold $3.1m worth of stock. Her husband, who is chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, also reportedly bought shares after the January briefing in the tech firms.
Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein sold up to $1m worth of stock less than a month before panic about the virus caused markets to plunge. Her husband also sold up to $5m worth of shares mid-February, according to financial disclosures.
Republican Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee dumped $400,000 worth of stock on January 27. He told reporters Friday that he stood falsely accused.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic in Europe we are witnessing some of the worst behaviours of humankind. In England a devastated nurse shared her distress at not being able to buy the vital food from her local supermarket she needed after a gruelling shift in intensive care.
Dawn Bilbrough, 51, warned panic buyers that it is key workers like her who will be “looking after you when you’re at your lowest”. In a heart-breaking video, she pleads: “You are just stripping the shelves bare of essential foods. Just stop it.”
She admitted she had a “little cry” in the supermarket after seeing the fruit and vegetable shelves totally bare. She said: “I don’t know how I’m supposed to stay healthy. And those people are just stripping the shelves of basic foods. You just need to stop it. Because it’s people like me that are going to be looking after you when you’re at your lowest so just stop it. Please!”
As the new virus spreads, some governments are giving in to their worst instincts. Even before the coronavirus outbreak began, Chinese manufacturers made half of the world’s medical masks. These manufacturers ramped up production as a result of the crisis, but the Chinese government effectively bought up the country’s entire supply of masks, while also importing large quantities of masks and respirators from abroad.
European countries didn’t behave much better. Russia and Turkey prohibited the export of medical masks and respirators. Our wonderful European Union was not displaying unity when Germany did the same. This as a member of a union which is supposed to have a “single market” with unrestricted free trade among its member states.
The French government took a simpler step of seizing all available masks. EU officials complained that such actions undermined solidarity and prevented the EU from adopting a common approach to combating the new virus, but they were simply ignored.
Ultimately, the coronavirus might even serve as a wake-up call, spurring progress on other global challenges that require all of us to work together especially climate change.
Co-operation and actions that represent the best in humankind may be easier said than done.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com