How Mongolia has stored the coronavirus at bay

Mongolia shares the world’s longest land border with China, however its early and extremely centralized pandemic response has been so efficient that not a single individual within the landlocked nation has died from covid-19. A former military colonel turned public well being official recounts how Mongolia enacted its in depth quarantine and testing regime beneath a state of emergency.

We first heard a couple of new virus spreading in China round New Yr’s Eve. On January 10, we issued our first public advisory, telling everybody in Mongolia to put on a masks. 

Right here’s the factor: we don’t even have an excellent public well being system. That’s why our directors have been so afraid of covid-19. We don’t have many respirators, for instance. We have been actually afraid that if we bought neighborhood transmission even as soon as, it might turn into a catastrophe for us. What was in everybody’s head was to be ready earlier than the unfold. Another excuse we have been so eager to guard the neighborhood is as a result of we’ve got the world’s longest land border with China—2,880 miles [4,600 kilometers]—in addition to steady human circulate for schooling and enterprise from China to Mongolia.

zero Covid deaths

As of August 17, 2020. Supply: WHO Dashboard

Davaadorj Rendoo

Mongolia is an enormous nation with a sparse inhabitants, about 3.2 million individuals. As a result of our nation has a really harsh, dry, and chilly local weather, yearly from November to February we’ve got an terrible flu season, and the Ministry of Well being all the time encourages individuals to observe good hygiene and wash fingers, particularly younger kids. So a lot of our solutions weren’t new. 

Now we have been doing checks since January. We even began randomly screening pneumonia sufferers for covid-19 however by no means discovered a affected person. We bought the vast majority of our check kits from the World Well being Group (WHO), together with speedy checks, and have been in a position to scale it up fairly rapidly.  

In February, we began flying Mongolians dwelling overseas again residence and testing them. 

We didn’t detect a single home case till March 9. One French nationwide working within the southern province of Dornogovi was found to have had coronavirus. Since that day, the Ministry of Well being has been conducting every day scenario briefings to speak about what number of circumstances have been imported, what the high-risk areas are. After that case was introduced, individuals grew to become much more obedient to our directives. However we have been so prepared for this case. We actually had sufficient time to organize. 

For that French nationwide, we undertook very in depth contact tracing and recognized 120 individuals who had had some contact with him. This isn’t the primary time we’ve got carried out contact tracing; it has been a part of the mandate of the Nationwide Middle of Communicable Ailments since its inception. We do that for all types of illness, together with sexually transmitted ailments.

We additionally opened a devoted, 24-hour covid hotline. Folks have been getting all types of improper data from social media. One massive hoax was that as a result of Mongolians eat very healthily and reside in conventional nomadic existence, we’d not get the virus and had a “pure immunity.” One other massive one was that as a result of it’s chilly and dry, the virus doesn’t survive right here, and it solely survives in heat and moist climates. In the present day, even the vast majority of herders and nomadic individuals have satellite tv for pc TV with photo voltaic power, to allow them to nonetheless entry data. 

One aspect impact of this lockdown has been a big discount in circumstances of seasonal flu, pneumonia (a really major problem yearly), and foodborne and digestive sickness. 

Every single day, we’re nonetheless involved, however our individuals are getting much less anxious. It’s summer season now; the climate is getting nicer. Individuals are going for picnics, using horses. Now we have arrange quite a lot of temperature checks at recreation spots within the countryside. Nearly all the general public areas, beginning with the department stores and pharmacies, nonetheless require masks. However we understand that within the rural areas, carrying a masks each day shouldn’t be doable.

We don’t know the way lengthy the state of emergency will final. A few of our highest officers have stated we are going to shut our borders indefinitely. We can not take something as a right. In Japan, they lifted restrictions and the virus got here again. Till the top of this summer season, we aren’t easing quarantine in any respect. However faculties should begin in September. What we nonetheless advocate each day to the general public is to remain prepared, as a result of neighborhood transmission is perhaps simply across the nook.

This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.

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