Because the coronavirus pandemic exhibits no signal of abating throughout the globe, Australians may very well be forgiven for being a bit bit smug.
With two waves crushed, a comparatively small outbreak at Christmas contained and an in depth name with the extremely infectious UK variant averted in Brisbane, we have clocked up 12 days with none regionally acquired circumstances.
We are sometimes mentioned to be one of many exemplars of the worldwide public well being response (even when we do say so ourselves).
“Should you’d requested me a yr in the past, are you able to think about a circumstance the place Australia was at zero circumstances however the world was at 630,000 circumstances in a day, I might have struggled to be so daring to have made that prediction, so our efforts are extraordinary,” Well being Minister Greg Hunt mentioned on Friday.
So when the Lowy Institute launched its analysis of the countries with the most effective pandemic response, some have been shocked to see Australia scraping into the highest 10 at quantity eight.
The assume tank tracked six measures in 98 nations for 36 weeks after the nation’s one centesimal confirmed case. The Institute’s Herve Lemahieu informed the ABC that there wasn’t one explicit sort of nation that had stemmed the tide, however there gave the impression to be a bonus for smaller nations.
“One of many exceptional findings of this examine is that there was kind of a degree enjoying subject between growing and wealthy nations,” he mentioned.
Regardless of their success, the highest 10 is a warning towards complacency — with the New Zealand journey bubble suspended this week and Vietnam recording its worst single-day coronavirus outbreak thus far.
So what classes can we study from the seven nations that trumped us?
Particular weapon: An elimination technique
Like most of the nations who nailed their pandemic response, New Zealand is an island. However the important thing issue within the nation’s success was how onerous and quick it moved to lock down the inhabitants following early circumstances.
Not like Australia, which aimed to “suppress” the virus, New Zealand went for elimination from the outset. And after seven weeks of lockdown, the nation emerged virus-free. Sturdy cooperation from the general public was credited partially to clear communication from well being authorities, together with by textual content messages.
New Zealand was additionally an early adopter of genomic sequencing, which confirmed the strict lockdown started working nearly instantly: within the first week, transmission dropped from seven contacts of an contaminated case, on common, to 0.2.
Whereas tight borders have harmed New Zealand’s tourism sector, they’ve allowed the island nation to stay largely COVID-free, minimising the hit to different industries.
Particular weapon: A low-tech, onerous and quick response
Vietnam went greater than half a yr with no single demise from COVID-19. The nation’s method has proven a low-tech response may be simply as efficient at containing the virus.
Vietnam compelled lots of of 1000’s of individuals into quarantine, even barricading off streets the place contaminated individuals lived. Human rights organisations sounded the alarm on the draconian method, but it surely proved efficient in stamping out outbreaks.
In mid-March 2020, face masks grew to become obligatory exterior of the house and there was little resistance from a inhabitants well-versed in illness outbreaks.
One of many methods Vietnam made assets go additional was by “pool sampling” throughout community-wide testing.
This concerned testing total households with a single swab, and if it returned a constructive consequence, retesting every particular person individually to see who was contaminated.
This meant testing provides might stretch a lot additional, and canopy extra of the inhabitants. Throughout an outbreak within the vacationer metropolis of Da Nang, round a 3rd of the town’s households have been examined, in response to the WHO.
After which there have been the jingles, like this public well being message that went viral.
Particular weapon: In depth public well being infrastructure and expertise with SARS
When the pandemic reached Taiwan, the federal government leapt into motion. With SARS nonetheless recent within the nationwide reminiscence, they weren’t taking any probabilities.
The nation owes a lot of its success to its intensive public well being community, which allowed it to rapidly activate testing, quarantine and contact-tracing, attaining elimination locally in April with no lockdown.
The nation’s immigration and medical health insurance businesses built-in their databases so they might rapidly establish who ought to be examined based mostly on their journey and medical histories.
Well being authorities partnered with telecommunications firms to implement quarantine by cell phone location monitoring. In addition they collaborated with two tech firms to create a chatbot so residents might report their well being standing and search recommendation.
Taiwan rapidly ramped up masks manufacturing, establishing 60 manufacturing traces in 25 days, with the nation in a position to produce extra 20 million masks a day by the tip of Might.
Particular weapon: A military of volunteers
Thailand is facing a second wave that is unfold among the many overcrowded lodging of migrant staff from Myanmar. However many within the nation aren’t panicking, based mostly on Thailand’s early success in containing the pandemic.
Like Taiwan, Thailand has a robust public well being community with a singular benefit: a largely feminine military of volunteers with fundamental medical coaching.
These volunteers, unfold throughout the nation, went door-to-door over the course of 2020, educating households on forestall transmission, dispelling misinformation, providing masks and sanitiser, and offering updates on public well being measures.
In addition they triaged circumstances, sending individuals with signs off for testing, and enforced quarantine orders.
This, mixed with lockdowns and complex screening at airports and different public locations, gave Thailand a bonus in suppressing COVID-19.
Particular weapon: Border controls and lockdowns
One other island state, Cyprus’s success in containing the pandemic owes a lot to frame controls, which have closely impacted its vacationer sector. From comparatively early within the pandemic, arrivals needed to show they have been virus-free earlier than arriving.
The nation has additionally been joyful to impose restrictions, such because the practically three-month lockdown imposed in mid-March that crushed the virus.
Whereas the an infection fee remained low by the preliminary months of the pandemic, a current surge in infections has seen Cyprus hit extra circumstances than Australia, and the nation has returned to lockdown.
Particular weapon: Public belief within the well being system
As a few of its neighbours battle a caseload 10 occasions greater, Rwanda has been a low-key COVID success story, with about 14,600 circumstances and 186 deaths.
Agnes Binagwaho, an architect of the nation’s well being system, informed the BMJ in December that Rwandans belief their well being system.
“So, when the federal government closes the borders and sends everybody dwelling—when it deploys well being staff to individuals’s houses, robots to their remedy centres, and drones to their skies [as it has done] — the individuals should know these actions should not towards them, however for them. That is the one approach they will adjust to the steerage—enforcement will get you solely thus far,” she mentioned.
The nation’s “patient-centric” response and neighborhood engagement has been held up as a motive for Rwanda’s success, regardless of it missing among the assets of richer nations.
“COVID-19 has proven that the Western world and the worldwide north should not one of the best at doing every thing. It is time to revisit why they’re doing what they’re doing,” she mentioned.
“The tradition of individualism, the shortage of solidarity—it is shedding belief with the individuals. And it is making individuals sick.”
Particular weapon: Refined and widespread testing
Iceland’s tiny inhabitants of 368,000 allowed it to hold out widespread neighborhood testing.
Not like different European nations that restricted testing to individuals with signs, Iceland forged an open invitation for any of its residents to be examined. Round 13 per cent of those that initially got here ahead examined constructive. Almost half of these infections have been asymptomatic, which revolutionised understanding of the virus.
Scientists additionally tracked the signs that confirmed circumstances skilled, and found muscle aches, complications and a dry cough have been commonest, regardless of the general public concentrate on fever.
Greater than half the Icelandic inhabitants have been examined for COVID-19 in 2020. With an understanding of the total scope of neighborhood transmission, the nation has been in a position to handle outbreaks whereas retaining its borders open to many nations.