The fight against the coronavirus pandemic has been an arduous one worldwide, including in Latin America. However, while many countries are still struggling to curb the wave, there are others who are already way ahead or have won their battle with the disease. In fact, believe it or not, there are still a few countries, like Somoa and Micronesia, who haven’t reported any coronavirus cases at all.
Some of the countries who have experienced waves of COVID have been able to get it under control, giving hope to those still struggling to do so. Here are some countries that are succeeding handling the coronavirus crisis:
Perhaps one of the most talked about transitions has been that of New Zealand. The Oceanian country reported its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 28. Almost immediately, the New Zealand government, led by the prime minister Jacinda Ader, started an aggressive strategy to wipe out the virus. This included implementing stay at home orders, closing fronteers and mandating that people only interact with those within their household. The measures were so aggressive that New Zealand managed to contain the outbreak and prevent thousands of deaths within a month, with only 22 total people being lost to Covid since the first case was reported.
There were several success factors in New Zealand’s COVID management. Many have praised Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, who went on dozens of Facebook Live videos to update New Zeleanders on the situation and also sent automated text messages to direct people on what to do to prevent infection. A very important thing to note of the crisis management is that 88% of people in New Zealand said they trusted their government, compared to the 59% average that do in G7 countries, making it easier to ensure people to comply with the preventive measures. The government also put important policies in place to help their citizens and residents, like visa waivers and tax rafts.
Since the writing of this article, New Zealand has reported 0 COVID cases in 42 days.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago is a fairly small country. Nevertheless, it has been recognized for being one of the most effective in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially considering that their economic resources are much smaller than most of the more affected countries.
Trinidad and Tobago’s strategy was fairly simple: Test, trace and isolate. The catch was that, unlike many other countries, Trinidad and Tobago started implementing measures against the coronavirus as soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended to do so. By staying ahead of infections, they were able to minimize the impact that the virus had on its communities. President Paula-Mae Weekes also implemented a strict lockdown as the testing was happening, which helped tremendously in the slowing down of cases.
Since the writing of this article, Trinidad and Tobago has reported only 15 cases in the last 14 days.
Cuba has been praised for serving as an example to the rest of Latin America in their handling of the coronavirus. The country has recorded fewer than 100 coronavirus deaths and has only had around 2,500 cases since the pandemic started.
What made Cuba so successful in fighting the virus was their rigorous screening campaigns and strict restrictions. Additionally, Cuban doctors have played an important role in creating a vaccine for COVID-19, aside from running successful tests on an old antiviral medication that helps treat the infection. Overall, Cuba has been so successful that, in fact, many of their doctors have traveled overseas to help other countries deal with their coronavirus waves.
Since the writing of this article, Cuba has reported 123 cases in the last 14 days. .
Timor-Leste is perhaps the country that has had the most successful response to the health crisis. A week after the first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 21, the country’s President, Francisco Guterre (better known as Lu-Olo), declared a state of emergency. Immediately, the Asian country went into a national lockdown, restricting many activities including in-person classes for schools, closing its borders and particularly reinforcing its border with hard-hit Indonesia. The state of emergency was extended two times, with the last one being a little more flexible with Timorese returning from overseas. Overall, the early intervention and a mandatory quarantine in the country afforded it a very good avantage on the virus.
Since the writing of this article, Timor-Leste has spent 94 days COVID-free.
Other honorable mentions include Taiwan, who has had 11 cases in the last 14 days, Iceland, with 20 cases in the last two weeks, and Jordan, who has had 0 cases in the last week. Among the countries that are doing the worst are Brazil, with more than 556,000 cases in the last two weeks, Peru, with almost 60,000 new cases in the last 14 days, and the United States, who occupies the first place on the list of countries handling the pandemic the worst, with more than 92,000 cases in the last 14 days, since this article was written.
What about Latin America?
In Latin America one of the countries that is doing the best is Cuba. With under 130 cases in the last two weeks, Cuba is way ahead of other Latin American countries like Uruguay and Paraguay, who each have just under 200 cases and over 1200 respectively. Among the Latin American countries that are doing the worst are Argentina with around 66,000 active cases in the last 14 days, Mexico with almost 95,000, and Colombia, with more than 100,000.
Latin America is being hit particularly hard because most of the countries are not prepared to deal with a health crisis of this magnitude. On top of that, in a lot of Latin American countries informal labor and cluttered living situations are common, making the illness spread more easily.
In Peru, for example, 72% of people work in the informal economy, while about 30% of the population share their house with more than 4 people. All of this makes enforcing social distancing extremely difficult.
“All countries have vulnerable populations and we are seeing a greater impact in terms of disease, disease severity, poor outcomes in groups that are vulnerable,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit. “It highlights the inequalities that we see in vulnerable groups.”
What The Top Countries Are Doing Right
One of the main things that countries with controlled coronavirus outbreaks have done is be swift in their response. Almost every country on the top of the list acted immediately after the first case, and continued a steady flow of testing and tracking for the next months. They also implemented strict social distancing orders and some of the most successful ones closed their borders. Most importantly, though, they provided federal and financial resources to their people so they could weather the pandemic, such as rent and debt forgiveness, stimulus checks and accessible health care.
An interesting trend among countries that did a good job at containing the pandemic is that they were led by women. A recent study pointed out that countries with women leaders have done a better job at handling the health crisis compared to countries with male leaders and similar demographics and geography. However, there is still more research to be done to get accurate results.
“We are concerned about the quality of the data,” the study authors told Quartz via email. “As we mention in the paper, most countries were not testing comprehensively, so the numbers of cases are not entirely reliable and the numbers of deaths are not recorded in exactly the same way across countries. Once we are confident about this, it would make more analysis possible about the decisions made by leaders.”