Only a handful of countries around the world have successfully managed to defeat COVID-19. Here’s how they did it.
Only a handful of countries around the world have successfully managed to defeat COVID-19. Here’s how they did it.

How these nations defeated COVID-19

Only a small number of countries have successfully managed to eliminate COVID-19.

New Zealand, Fiji, Mongolia and Taiwan are among the few that have not recorded a single case of coronavirus in local communities for a relatively sustained period of time.

Some states and territories in Australia are in a similar position to New Zealand; the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia have gone months without recording any new locally acquired cases. Tasmania and the ACT have gone almost two weeks without a single active case.

But Australia as a whole is experiencing a worrying new wave of the virus, with Victoria leading a massive resurgence, and New South Wales a smaller one.

Here's how the other countries did it.

NEW ZEALAND

With a population of five million, New Zealand won widespread praise for its effective handling of the coronavirus pandemic since closing its borders on March 19.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) hailed the country as an example to others for having "successfully eliminated community transmission".

Since the first patient was diagnosed in February, there have been 1219 confirmed cases of the virus in New Zealand with the last case of community transmission recorded on May 1.

As a result, New Zealanders are enjoying a near-normal, pre-coronavirus lifestyle with no social distancing and spectators allowed at sports and cultural events, but with the border strictly controlled and all arrivals required to spend 14 days in quarantine.

Jacinda Ardern's government has maintained the prospect of a second wave remains a possibility and is pushing for all households to keep emergency supply kits, including masks, on hand.

A key difference between New Zealand's and Australia's approach to the virus is that one implemented an elimination strategy - which it pursued aggressively - while the other pushed for suppression.

New Zealand's elimination approach allowed it to squash the virus completely, which has since seen the reopening of the country's economy.

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New Zealand has successfully eliminated COVID-19. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images
New Zealand has successfully eliminated COVID-19. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images

 

TAIWAN

Taiwan has a similar population to Australia - but the smaller island is much more densely populated and closer to China.

The country successfully implemented a massive testing and contact tracing program early on, while quarantining people and isolating the sick.

On January 20, the country activated a Central Epidemic Command Centre to co-ordinate co-operation across various governments and ministries. It integrated with police agencies, local officials and telecom companies to maximise the country's response.

Taiwan has recorded less than 500 infections since the pandemic began, and only seven deaths. Unlike surrounding countries, it has so far successfully avoided a second resurgence of the virus.

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FIJI

Fiji announced its first death from COVID-19 on July 31 - a man who tested positive after returning from India, where he had travelled for surgery.

Before then, Fiji had enjoyed a spell of four weeks virus-free, after the 18 cases it had previously recorded all recovered.

Fiji and other Pacific Island nations were initially seen as among the world's most vulnerable to the virus because of under-resourced health infrastructure and high rates of health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

However, nations in the region acted swiftly and made the costly decision to seal borders, shutting down the tourism trade that powered their economies in order to protect their populations.

Fijian Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete said there is no risk of local infection, noting the man who died had "zero interaction" with the general public.

"In many other countries, news of the first death due to the virus has signalled an intensifying of the outbreak," he said.

"This is not the case for Fiji. The virus is not present in Fijian communities, nor is there any risk of infection among the Fijian public."

MONGOLIA

Mongolia's proximity to China may make it surprising that it appeared on this list, but like Taiwan, its government acted early and efficiently.

From January, the Mongolian government enforced various public health measures including universal mask-wearing and handwashing, restricting international travel and banning major public gatherings.

RELATED: Teen in Mongolia dies of bubonic plague

Mongolia’s proximity to China may make it surprising that it appeared on this list, but like Taiwan, its government acted early and efficiently. Picture: iStock
Mongolia’s proximity to China may make it surprising that it appeared on this list, but like Taiwan, its government acted early and efficiently. Picture: iStock

 

The country managed to delay the first confirmed case of COVID-19 until March 10 - a French national who flew in on March 2 via Moscow - and avoided both intensive care admissions and deaths until July 6.

Immediately after the first case's diagnosis, he was placed in a quarantine camp and all of his 181 primary contacts were contacted. They all tested negative and were being observed for symptoms in quarantine camps.

The country has, however had recent cases of bubonic plague, with contacts of those infected immediately isolated.

- with AFP

Originally published as How these nations defeated COVID-19

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