How Countries Across the World are Dealing With COVID-19
For the optimists, the hope was that COVID-19 would have disappeared by now. The reality, however, is very much the opposite. Anyone can see that by flicking on the news or visiting social media and seeing the latest developments in the US.
Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that the impact of COVID-19 has varied depending on the country. Certain places reacted fast to the pandemic, while others were lackadaisical in doing so—and continue to take a relaxed approach.
While this piece would resemble the size of a novel if it covered every country, this article will place the spotlight on a number of nations across the planet. It’ll show what they did right, what they did wrong, and how they continue to deal with this unprecedented situation.
To say the US response to COVID-19 was slow is an understatement. With close to four million cases to date, the US is responsible for more than one-third of worldwide cases based on official statistics. The country has also suffered from over 160,000 deaths and counting.
The main issue is that cases continue to grow at an alarming rate. While other countries have, hopefully, already suffered the worst the virus can throw at them, the US is right in the middle of the pandemic. The initial lockdown was lifted early and this has only resulted in a second wave ripping through the country with a terrifying force. Florida, seen as America’s current COVID-19 epicenter, has had more cases than most countries—and the number continues to grow at an alarming rate—while New York has already suffered from over 32,000 deaths.
The numbers, the lack of action from the government, and overall confusion have made a dire situation even worse. One of the biggest current discussion points is the use of face masks. Certain states have made mask-wearing a compulsory action for those out in public. Yet there’s a partisan divide, with one side bizarrely feeling their human rights are being trampled on due to the requirement to wear a mask—and they’re pushing back vocally as a result.
With all of the issues currently faced, it’s safe to say the US still has a long fight ahead before COVID-19 is defeated.
On January 31, the UK confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19. Due to a lax reaction to the virus, the UK quickly became the most impacted country in Europe. As of writing, it has the largest number of deaths—at over 45,000—compared to any other European country. In fact, based on official figures, the UK only sits behind the US and Brazil in terms of mortality rate.
Despite the alarming numbers, the UK has continually eased lockdown restrictions. Most businesses are now back open with certain restrictions in place, including pubs and hairdressers. The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who notably also suffered from COVID-19, has made a push to get the economy up and running again. Several major businesses have already suffered irreparable damage due to the virus, and the hope is that trying to return to some form of normality will stop others from collapsing.
While figures are promising, with new cases and death rates both steadily decreasing, experts are warning that a second wave is inevitable. With fatigue setting in with the general public, sticking to the recommended social distancing measures of two meters has fallen by the wayside for plenty. Face masks are becoming mandatory in supermarkets and shops, which will hopefully help stop the virus from reaching the heights it previously did in the UK.
Iran was one of the earliest countries to be affected by COVID-19. When the first cases in Iran were reported back in February, the country’s authorities first denied this was the case. This resulted in the virus having additional time to spread across the land.
What was the result? Iran is widely considered to be the most affected country in the Middle East. The president, Hassan Rouhani, estimates that Iran has already experienced 25 million positive COVID-19 cases. His announcement also suggested that 30 to 35 million people overall will be infected in the coming months.
These numbers don’t match up to the death toll, which currently sits around the 14,000 mark. It is suggested that, for a more accurate picture, the number could be doubled from the official figures.
With the Iranian policy on Syria related to COVID, they have also forsaken Syrian refugees. This is bad news due to how Syrian refugees have been among the most affected by the overall impact of COVID-19.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, the economic downturn caused by the pandemic has caused vulnerable refugees to become even more vulnerable. Many refugees have ended up losing their already paltry incomes, which means they have had to reduce their expenditure on just the essentials—such as food and medication.
One country that got COVID-19 right from the start was New Zealand. Official numbers reveal the country has only had a little over 1,500 cases in total, with just 22 of those resulting in death.
The reason for this is simple: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heeded the warning signs and imposed harsh restrictions. These restrictions, which were met with clear and transparent messages from the government, helped to contain COVID-19. Within two months of a well-implemented lockdown, precautions were gradually relaxed and people generally got back to normality.
As of today, the five million people in New Zealand can freely meet in restaurants and cafes. They can go to the beach. They are allowed to hug each other. This is all thanks to the early— and continued—work that effectively eliminated COVID-19 from the country.
With over 2.1 million cases recorded since March, Brazil only sits behind the US as the country most affected by COVID-19. Official statistics state that over 80,000 people have died due to the virus. However, the lack of testing suggests that this number is likely even higher.
The saddest part of the story is that Brazil had time to prepare for the virus. It took some time before COVID-19 reached the country, yet no procedures were put into place to protect the general public. As a result, COVID-19 spread like wildfire.
It first hit the Amazonas region, but it quickly ripped through major cities including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. With underfunded health systems in the likes of Sao Paulo, Brazil wasn’t adequately prepared for the number of cases thrown its way. Makeshift facilities, including a hospital built within a sports gym, have cropped up in an effort to offer care for those suffering from the virus.
The actions of President Jair Bolsonaro have especially been criticized. When restrictions and stay-at-home orders were announced, Bolsonaro denounced the rules as “dictatorial.” He even went as far as visiting the capital, Brasilia, to join in with anti-lockdown protests. He has also lambasted the media for spreading paranoia about the virus he describes as a “little flu.”
Perhaps inevitably, Bolsonaro’s careless approach—which also included greeting supporters without wearing a mask—saw him contract COVID-19. Yet this, along with surging case numbers, didn’t stop him from lifting lockdowns on bars and restaurants.
The future of the world is uncertain. COVID-19 has ripped through the normality of life, destroying economies, businesses, and families along the way. While there are encouraging signs in most countries that the virus is being quelled to some degree, it’s far too early to be confident it will be defeated anytime soon.