Early, decisive action
In Taiwan, early involvement measures have controlled the COVID 19 pandemic successfully that it is now exporting millions of medical equipment to help the European Union and others countries .
Taiwan,a democracy of almost 24 million people with roughly the same population as Australia — off China’s east coast. Taiwan is claimed by Beijing as its territory and shunned by the World Health Organization, so it should have been highly vulnerable to an epidemic originating in mainland China.
But when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen heard about a mysterious new virus infecting the citizens of Wuhan in December last year, she immediately ordered all planes arriving from Wuhan to be inspected.
She then set up an epidemic command center, ramped up production of personal protective equipment such as face masks and restricted all flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Taiwan’s early, aggressive intervention measures have limited the outbreak to just 393 confirmed infections and six deaths. The US State Department cites Taiwan’s coronavirus success in calling for Taiwan to be given observer status in the WHO’s World Health Assembly.
Germany has overseen the largest-scale coronavirus testing program in Europe, conducting 350,000 tests each week, detecting the virus early enough to isolate and treat patients effectively.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a media briefing about measures of the German government to avoid further spread of the coronavirus on April 9, 2020 at the chancellery in Berlin.
Germany, with 83 million citizens, has had over 132,000 infections but very low deaths per million — far lower than most other European countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, has seen her approval ratings soar due to her capable handling of the pandemic. Germany has the most intensive care beds and the largest-scale coronavirus testing program in Europe.
“Maybe our biggest strength in Germany, is the rational decision-making at the highest level of government combined with the trust the government enjoys in the population,” Hans-Georg Kräusslich, the head of virology at University Hospital in Heidelberg, told the New York Times.
In New Zealand, the prime minister took early action to shut down tourism and impose a month-long lockdown on the entire country, limiting coronavirus casualties to just nine deaths.
New Zealand is an island country of almost five million, which relies heavily on tourism.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press conference on April 09, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shut New Zealand’s borders to foreign visitors on March 19 and announced a four-week lockdown of the country on March 23, requiring all non-essential workers to stay at home except for grocery shopping or exercising nearby.
The country has carried out widespread testing and recorded over 1,300 coronavirus cases, but only nine deaths. New Zealand is only halfway through its lockdown, and Ardern has said it won’t end early.
All three places have received accolades for their impressive handling of the coronavirus pandemic. They are scattered across the globe, one is in the heart of Europe, one is in Asia and the other is in the South Pacific.
But they have one thing in common, they’re all led by women.
The success of these and other women-led governments in dealing with a global pandemic is all the more noteworthy, given that women make up less than 7% of world leaders.
These countries all multi-party democracies with high levels of public trust in their governments have contained the pandemic through early, scientific intervention. They have implemented widespread testing, easy access to quality medical treatment, aggressive contact tracing and tough restrictions on social gatherings.
“In the face of the greatest threat to human health we have seen in over a century, Kiwis have quietly and collectively implemented a nationwide wall of defense,” Ardern said in a speech to the nation Thursday.
The Nordic countries
Four of the five Nordic countries are led by women. Their countries each have lower death rates from coronavirus compared to the rest of Europe. For example, Finland’s Prime Minister, 34-year-old Sanna Marin, is the world’s youngest leader but she has an 85% approval rating among Finns for her preparedness for the pandemic, with only 59 deaths in a population of 5.5 million.
More women needed?
It’s too early to say definitively which leaders will emerge as having taken enough of the right steps to control the spread of coronavirus and save lives. But the examples above show that a disproportionately large number of leaders who acted early and decisively were women.
Yet, on January 1, 2020 only 10 of 152 elected heads of state were women, according the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations and men made up 75% of parliamentarians, 73% of managerial decision-makers and 76% of the people in mainstream news media.
“We have created a world where women are squeezed into just 25% one quarter of the space, both in physical decision-making rooms, and in the stories that we tell about our lives. One quarter is not enough,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
It is long past time for us to recognize that the world is in dire need of more women leaders and equal representation of women at all levels of politics. At the very least, the disproportionate number of women leaders succeeding in controlling this pandemic so far should show us that gender equality is critical to global public health and international security
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