Disinfo: Western leaders delayed taking precautions against the coronavirus out of nervousness about their re-election chances


Many Western leaders believe their political survival is delicately poised in such a poisoned atmosphere and hence delayed taking preventive actions to stem community transmission of the coronavirus out of nervousness about their approval ratings and re-election chances.

Unlike Western democracies, whose political culture is shaped by asserting individualism, human rights and treating the state as an enemy of liberty, Asians mostly do not worry about violation of privacy or government abuses.


Baseless speculation and conspiracy theory; no evidence given to support the claim that Western leaders have delayed taking precautions against the coronavirus due to nervousness about their approval rating and re-election chances. This case is also part of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign about the coronavirus crisis, one aim of which is to suggest that Western democracies and open societies are incapable of coping with the pandemic, as opposed to authoritarian or closed societies.

The article’s claim that societies which aren't concerned about government abuses are better at preventing and controlling epidemics do not reflect reality. Authoritarian regimes or closed societies, which tend to control and manipulate information and limit the freedom of doctors and scientists to engage in international cooperation, are often an obstacle to the timely detection and containment of epidemic outbreaks.

A clear example is China’s deliberate cover-up in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. The regime suppressed information about the virus and allowed it to spread unchecked in the crucial early days and weeks. The Chinese government censored and detained those doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm and warn their fellow citizens when they understood the gravity of the coronavirus threat.

Furthermore, the real antidote to the COVID-19 pandemic (and to future epidemic outbreaks) is not to revert to nationalist isolationism and “closed societies” but to develop a global response. A coordinated, cross-border effort of the scientific and medical community to understand the virus, create cures and treatments, and speedily disseminate a vaccine across national borders, will bring the global pandemic under control.

For similar cases see here, here, and here.


  • Reported in: Issue 190
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 27/03/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: EU, Italy, US, France, Spain
  • Keywords: coronavirus, Conspiracy theory, West, The West


Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Coronavirus killed the Schengen area

European unity has become another victim of the coronavirus. The Schengen agreement is not valid. The free movement of people, goods and services will no longer resume. Coronavirus killed the Schengen area.


Attempt to discredit the EU, consistent with recurring pro-Kremlin narratives about the imminent collapse of the EU. Read similar case claiming that The Schengen zone has collapsed.

The coronavirus crisis does not signal the collapse of the Schengen Area. On the contrary – we are seeing how indispensable Schengen arrangements are to the European economy and way of life. In the current exceptional situation, many EU Member States introduced temporary border controls to slow the spread of coronavirus, but the Commission is ensuring that EU-wide supply chains continue to operate and that flow of goods and key services continues around the clock. The introduction of ‘green lanes’ will allow all freight vehicles to cross internal Schengen borders within 15 minutes. Learn more here.

The Italian Parliament lowers the flag of the European Union

The Italian Parliament lowers the flag of the European Union.


A misleading headline to support a recurring narrative about EU disintegration amid the coronavirus crisis. From the text of the article it is clear that one Italian MP has allegedly removed the EU flag from his office.

For similar cases, see for example claims that amid the pandemic, the idea of a united Europe has crashed, that after the COVID-19 crisis Italy or Germany may leave the EU, and that the coronavirus will cause the dissolution of the EU and NATO.

It is too early to tell whether any extra people will die because of COVID-19

It is definitely too early to accurately gauge how many – if any – extra people will die because of coronavirus.

It is hard to believe that when this all blows over, the damage that will have been done by the shutdown measures – to businesses, to civil liberties, to individual lives and, of course, to the global economy – could have been for nothing. Nonetheless, it seems entirely possible based on the present data.


This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation attempt to downplay the severity and urgency of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Pro-Kremlin media have spread a variety of false claims to push this message, for example that coronavirus mortality figures are insignificant, that COVID-19 is fake and a political move to install hegemony, and that the virus is safe.

The novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, belongs to a family of viruses originating in animals that includes others such as SARS and MERS. It was first reported in the city of Wuhan in central China in late 2019 and has been rapidly spreading across the world, with cases being reported in 190 countries, territories and areas. The number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 777,000 globally with over 37,000 deaths as of 31 March 2020.