As of Thursday, the number of COVID-19 cases globally was over 4.4 million, spread across 213 countries and territories as well as 2 international conveyances. There have been more than 1.6 million recoveries with nearly 300,000 deaths.
While much of the world has instituted lockdowns or heavily restricted movement and economic activity in response to the coronavirus outbreak, few countries and territories have so far taken unorthodox methods to deal with the pandemic.
Based on available reports, here below are four of the entities approaching the pandemic differently:
1. South Korea
Often described as a country with some of the world’s most comprehensive protective measures in place, South Korea is one of the Asian countries experiencing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic but has responded with a string of several measures that do not include shutting down the economy.
South Korea saw a surge in the number of cases starting late February when the virus spread rapidly among members of a religious group. But by the middle of April, daily reported cases of infection fell well below 100.
With the quick-fire test method, the country has to an extent been able to keep the outbreak at bay, embarking on mass testing efforts and strict social isolation measures without totally shutting down businesses. It has also made readily available public phone booths, which is one option for COVID-19 testing. As a result, it managed to contain the virus outbreak without suppressing economic activities.
Despite a fresh coronavirus outbreak in the capital of Seoul, the country’s health authorities this week reiterated they had no immediate plans to impose strict social distancing rules.
Not all ‘developed’ countries have felt the need to take stringent measures to curb the coronavirus, at least not Sweden, whose ‘laissez-faire’ approach to tackling the COVID-19 outbreak has been a topic of wide discourse in the international arena.
Sweden has refused to join the rest of its European neighbors in lockdown, instead focusing on isolating the infected and letting everything else remain status quo – Swedes are still socializing, elementary schools are still running, most businesses, including restaurants and bars, remain open and domestic flights are continuing in the Scandanavian nation.
This is despite the fact that the country has a high case count and relatively high deaths per capita. While the number of deaths per head has not reached the level of Italy, Spain or the United Kingdom, it is by far the highest in Scandinavia, higher than the United States, and more than double that of Canada.
Criticisms have trailed Sweden’s approach to tackling the deadly pandemic and the government has been accused of playing Russian roulette with Swedish lives. More so, experts say the country is unlikely to feel any economic benefit of the no-lockdown approach with analysts forecasting a contraction in growth similar to the rest of Europe.
In the Central American and the broader Latin American region, Nicaragua remains an island of inaction. President David Ortega has refused to adopt the social-distancing and lockdown measures used in other countries and has reportedly encouraged Nicaraguans to participate in mass gatherings.
The government has not imposed any rules to enforce social distancing. The border, public schools, and universities remain open and the strict preventative measures seen in neighboring countries are not in place. As expected, the country has come under fire for its casual approach to the crisis.
Reports indicate that some in the country have taken it upon themselves to self-quarantine and otherwise avoid spreading the virus.
According to available data, there are 25 confirmed cases, 7 people have recovered and eight Nicaraguans have officially died of the COVID-19 disease. But health professionals worry that cases are drastically underreported.
The Tanzanian semi-autonomous island Zanzibar this week ruled out a complete lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic citing the high financial costs of supporting the poorer segments of its population.
According to the government, at least $19 million – almost two-thirds of the total budget for the COVID-19 response plan – will be required for the upkeep of 60 percent of households living below or just above the poverty line for a lockdown period of three weeks.
A lockdown would probably double the current 31 percent household poverty rate in the semi-autonomous archipelago’s main Unguja and Pemba islands, the finance ministry said.