What was the common denominator for countries and territories that kept the pandemic to a minimum? Unlike in the United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom, draconian action and effective governance appeared to be the key components in keeping Covid-19 from spreading in many jurisdictions.

In some places, the wearing of a face mask is mandatory, and anyone venturing out without a mask is swiftly penalised. In those countries, there is no halfway point: Wearing a face mask is compulsory.

Even in countries where masks are not compulsory, populations that are actively mindful of the importance of masks in combatting Covid-19 wear their masks when necessary. This has probably stemmed the tide of infections in those countries.

Early in the pandemic, there was mixed messaging on masks, especially in the US and UK.

Countries that took the pandemic seriously in December 2019 were better prepared for action when the worst happened, unlike countries that refused to take the pandemic seriously and that failed to lockdown early.

There may have been a false belief that the pandemic was an Asian issue, and that it would not reach the west. However, science rightly stated that with global aviation and international shipping, it would only be a matter of time before the pandemic reached western shores.


African response

In Africa in early January 2020, Kenya converted its robust manufacturing base into a machine for building ventilators and health care equipment. That effort apparently paid off in minimising the spread of Covid-19 there.

Countries where populations obeyed government protocols also did well. The Caribbean — and the Virgin Islands is one example — possessed many residents who did not disobey directives and rules set by health ministers. The result may have been a minimisation of infection rates and deaths in most of the Caribbean islands.

Many West Indians and residents of the Caribbean stayed indoors and obeyed quarantine rules and social distancing requirements. The result was far less spread of the pandemic in the region.

Limiting personal contact was a disaster for these economies. However, lockdowns and social distancing achieved the desired result of controlling the spread of the virus.


The Rwanda example

In Africa, the poster child for prevailing against the virus is Rwanda. Rwanda is a highly digitised African state capable of going cashless at very short notice. When lockdown was initiated very early on, Rwanda went cashless and all transactions were done online. The country fully locked down for months. This approach kept social distancing to a maximum. And that helped keep control of the pandemic in Rwanda.

Effective digitisation meant that over 50 percent of Rwandans could work from home. Online schooling was empowered, and most businesses were able to operate online.

Rwanda has a population of 12 million, with just 2,200 reported Covid-19 cases and eight related deaths.

Compare that with the US and UK, where hundreds of thousands have died and millions were infected, and there is no doubt that Rwanda is an example of early action saving lives.

And it appears that as with countries that obeyed science with early action on Covid-19, so it will be with countries that bow to science with the vaccine.

The countries that first get the majority of their populations vaccinated will be the first to return to normal and see full economic and social recovery.


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