The response to Covid-19 has varied among countries around the world, and we are now seeing who has been successful and who has failed to effectively manage the spread of the disease.
Kenya: 34,705 cases and 585 deaths (population: 51.39 million)
The first case was reported on March 13, 2020. Soon after, President Uhuru Kenyatta implemented several measures with hopes in reducing transmissions. All schools were closed, and people began working from home, the exception being those providing essential services. The government also created a plan for the inevitable financial hardships people would face in the upcoming months, including 100% tax relief to Kenyans earning 228 USD and below. Muhati Kagwe, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for health, announced a 7pm-5am curfew on March 25. The effort to control the disease in Kenya has been criticized for the government “demanding obedience rather than seeking consent.” Officers used brutality and arrest, under the pretense of enforcing social distancing rules, which has expanded the opportunity for the extraction of bribes. Police have forced citizens into crowded jail cells and vans and arrested motorists for not wearing masks, even when they are the sole passenger in their vehicle. Families have been dragged from their homes for not wearing masks indoors. The government has been censured by its people for treating Covid-19 as more of a problem of law and order than as a public health issue.
Sweden: 84,985 cases and 5,835 deaths (population: 10.23 million)
Sweden’s response has sparked controversy as they managed to flatten the curve without ever implementing a full-scale lockdown, but their death toll is much higher than its Scandinavian neighbors. Sweden had 567 deaths per million, while Finland had 59 deaths per million and Norway had 47 deaths per millions. While Swedish authorities never officially stated that herd immunity was the goal, they argued that by keeping society open, citizens would develop a resistance to Covid-19. However, according to the Swedish Public Health Agency, only 6% of the population is known to have antibodies. At the beginning of the outbreak, daycare facilities and elementary schools remained open, and businesses and restaurants operated at reduced hours. Masks were never required, and only gatherings of more than 50 people were banned. The Swedish government described the pandemic as a “marathon, not a sprint,” while health experts have argued against this mentality as it fails to address how quickly the virus can spread.
New Zealand: 1764 cases and 22 deaths (population: 4.886 million)
Prime minister Jacinda Adern began implementing a Covid-19 response plan in February. The government announced border-control policies and hospitals began preparing for an influx of patients. Despite the small islands geographic isolation, tourists and students arrive from Europe and China every year. The first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed on February 26. The country originally used a mitigation strategy, but due to insufficient testing and contract tracing capacity, they switched to an elimination strategy. On March 26, the government enacted a country wide lockdown. After 7 weeks of a national stay at home order, the last known case was found and the patient was put into isolation. Even at its peak, New Zealand only had 89 cases a day. On June 8, the government moved to alert level 1 and all restrictions were lifted except for border control, 103 days after the first case. While 2 cases were found in June after two women from the UK were allowed to break quarantine to visit a dying a relative, extensive contact tracing is being done to contain this outbreak. The government has instituted a spending program for businesses and has supplemented the incomes of people facing financial instability, but the economic costs are still visible. Foreign tourists and workers stimulate the economy, and with closed borders, people are questioning how long it can survive without this vital consumption and production. Despite this, New Zealand and the leadership of Acern, have been hailed as an example the rest of the world should follow.