It’s now been well over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread. At the time of writing, the virus has infected at least 148 million people and sadly taken the lives of more than three million. But while the coronavirus has impacted every country in the world, some have certainly dealt with the crisis better than others. Many of these nations have not only kept cases and deaths to a minimum but swerved the worst economic impacts. Avoiding multiple lockdowns and getting things “unlocked” a lot quicker than others, they are reaping the benefits of their approaches now.
It’s also important to note that aspects like significant wealth and huge scientific expertise haven’t necessarily been the trump cards you’d expect them to be. Take the US, for example. Despite having these things in their favour, a lacklustre response means around 1 in 570 Americans have tragically died from COVID. Many of the countries that have got their coronavirus responses right don’t necessarily possess these advantages. Here we look at three nations under this bracket.
1. New Zealand
New Zealand’s COVID-19 response has been widely applauded, with global business leaders calling it “the best in the world”. At the time of writing, the country has recorded just 2,325 cases and 26 deaths since the virus first arrived there on February 28th, 2020. This is the result of an aggressive ‘disease elimination’ approach, which runs contrary to the strategy favoured by most other countries, who instead aimed to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow down the spread of the virus. While New Zealand did go into a full national lockdown on 26th March last year, it was eased a month later, and by June 1st all restrictions were lifted except border controls. Unlike many other countries across the world, it hasn’t gone back into one since.
Being able to achieve this comes down to many factors, but perhaps the most important are the aforementioned strict border controls (which came into effect on March 19th 2020) and swift responses to new cases. Since the national lockdown ended, Auckland has been partially shut down on multiple occasions because of outbreaks, even when there’s only been one reported case. And while New Zealand’s economy still suffered because of the pandemic, it grew by a record 14% in the third quarter of 2020 as the country opened up again. This was partially stimulated by a colossal fiscal and monetary stimulus package, with NZ$62 billion (£32.2 billion) alone going towards protecting jobs.
Remarkably, Dominica is among a handful of countries to have recorded zero coronavirus deaths, with the Caribbean island only seeing 165 cases in total. Just over a week after it announced its first COVID-19 case, Dominica went into a state of emergency on April 1st, 2020. As part of this, the country closed its borders and imposed nightly curfews, as well as a total lockdown during the weekends. This lasted until June 30th, with lockdown ending and quarantine requirements introduced for overseas visitors. Unlike many other countries, Dominica already had sufficient testing capacity from the start, which enabled them to detect cases right away and stop any chains of transmission.
Although there are limited statistics available on the impact of COVID-19 on Dominica’s economy, it can be inferred that the pandemic hasn’t too much of an effect. For example, the government is still pushing ahead with plans to build its first long-haul airport. Certain initiatives have contributed greatly towards this economic stability, including the National Employment Programme (NEP). Funded by the Economic Diversification Fund, one of the two investment routes available in Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme, the NEP provides EC$3.7 million (£994,500) per month to the country’s youth. This money goes towards helping them obtain internships and jobs and improving their professional skills.
Another example is Dominica’s Safe in Nature initiative, which encourages tourists to visit the country even with a quarantine requirement. As part of the initiative, visitors receive a managed experience for their first five to seven days in the country. This involves staying at certified accommodation and being transferred and from the ports of entry, as well as to carefully selected locations for water-based and land-based activities.
Another nation that went hard and early with its coronavirus response was Vietnam. The southeast Asian country put its emergency plan into force all the way back on 23rd January 2020, months before other governments had even thought about taking action. Vietnam brought in travel restrictions, kept its border with China under observation before eventually closing it, and introduced health checks on visitors into the country. Schools were closed around this time too and remained shut until mid-May, while a huge contact tracing operation was initiated with immediate effect.
This strategy has worked incredibly well, with the country experiencing only 2,733 cases and 35 deaths at the time of writing. The only major setbacks have been an outbreak in Danang, leading to 80,000 visitors being evacuated from the city, and in early 2021 when the UK variant of COVID caused 84 cases in a single day in the Hải Dương and Quảng Ninh provinces. The second outbreak was more serious and took until early March to contain.
Vietnam’s economy has benefited massively from such an excellent response to the pandemic, with its GDP growing by 2.9% in 2020 and forecast to grow by 6.6% in 2021. This economic stability was also facilitated by a comprehensive support package, with VND62 trillion (£1.95 billion) set aside for those struggling because of the pandemic.