It’s been almost 5 months since the novel coronavirusoutbreak from China gained international attention. It has disrupted normal lives across the world since then and there is no clarity about when the tragic global event will pass while international powers like USA, India, Russia, UK amongst others reel under its effects. However, it would be fair to say that some governments across the world have displayed great agility and quickness in dealing with the situation, which is bound to grow in severity as days pass. Swift adaptive policy making and a sustainable approach in dealing with the virus have saved the citizens of countries like Taiwan, Australia and Iceland.These are some countries that have been relatively successful in dealing with the pandemic during these unprecedented times.
Iceland, one of the countries with the lowest death counts due to the Covid-19 outbreak, has attributed its success in containing the virus spread to extensive testing. The country has a confirmed case count of 1804, as of May 24, out of which 1,791 have recovered. The country reported up to 106 positive cases a day for the disease, a number that has reduced to 0 on some days. “I didn’t expect the recovery to be this fast,” said Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, ThorolfurGudnason. The authorities have acted swiftly, quarantining infected people and their contacts in time by adopting a rigorous policy of testing and tracking. Using this approach, they were even able to track asymptomatic cases.
The country has reopened malls, high schools, hair salons, etc. after only a 6-week long lockdown. The country differed in the imposition of the lockdown from other countries, as the social and economic activities weren’t completely brought to a halt. Only the infected and their contacts were quarantined during the six weeks.
The first case of the virus was reported on February 28 in Ischgl. The area was designated as a high-risk zone on March 5, two days after the case was confirmed. Post this, every individual returning to the country from a virus hotspot was isolated and a test-and-trace approach was adopted.
The country’s testing capacity was enhanced by deCODE genetics, a biopharmaceutical company, which in early March teamed up with health authorities to ramp up public testing. With the help of private participation, the country tested 50,000 people in the initial 6 weeks, which is 13 per cent of the country’s entire population.
Speaking of a country with a far greater population, only 7109 Australians out of a total population of over 25 million have been infected with the virus. The country’s response to the virus has revolved around immediate shutting of its border for further travel once initial wave of coronavirus positive cases were reported. Large scale testing, like Iceland, has been conducted in the country and timely contact tracing was initiated. Travelling overseas was promptly banned as it was noticed that up to 70 per cent of the people who had returned to the country tested positive for the virus.
Australia’s response to the pandemic has largely centred on shutting its borders, limiting public gatherings and conducting large-scale testing and contact tracing.
Travelling overseas is banned, foreigners aren’t allowed to enter the country, and Australians who return from other countries are kept in mandatory quarantine at specially designated hotels. The main reason for Australia’s success is probably its strict travel restrictions, says Adam Kamradt-Scott at the University of Sydney. About 70 per cent of Australians who have tested positive for covid-19 picked it up while they were overseas, making it important to stem this flow, he says, and being an island nation has made it easier for Australia to rapidly shut its border.
However, one of the most impressive success story comes from China’s neighboring island nation of Taiwan. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University in January said that Taiwan was one of the most at-risk countries outside of Mainland China, due to its close proximity and ties with China. With the outbreak escalating in China, Taiwanese officials were quick to get into action and ramped up domestic production of Personal Protective Equipment like face mask, and sanitisation. They also initiated retesting of people who had previously unexplained pneumonia. Medical officials held daily press briefs to ensure transparency and the government announced new punishments for people who spread misinformation about the virus. Another striking feature of the country’s successful response to the pandemic is that unlike many other countries, it did not implement a strict lockdown to curb the spread. Isolating patients by large-scale testing and contact tracing seems to be the only effective way to deal with the pandemic.
India has increased its testing by a hundred fold since March conducting over a lakh tests per day as of May 24 in comparison with 1,000 in March and hence, a surge in the number of positive cases has been observed. Further ramp up in testing, contact tracing and quarantine could help in quickly identifying infected cases and controlling the spread; and therein may lie further success in our efforts against the pandemic.