If there’s one country that we can get inspiration from in this fight against COVID-19, it’s Mongolia.
This country has been fighting the new Coronavirus with wisdom from the start and here’s how they have been doing it so far.
How Mongolia established its defenses against COVID-19
Let’s go over how Mongolia, China’s neighboring country, took up the challenge to fight COVID-19 face-to-face.
The Ministry educated and advised the public about what is happening.
Last January, the Ministry of Mongolia, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), conducted a press briefing to educate the public about the dreaded disease and to share what the Ministry has been doing in response to the outbreak that has started affecting other countries.
Through the press briefing, the Health Ministry said that they began screening people who returned from China and Hong Kong while other officials of the Ministry advised the public to avoid unnecessary travels to the region where the outbreak started or to places with risk of transmission.
Schools were closed.
Also in January, Mongolia announced closing schools and kindergartens until March 2, 2020. Hence, they started conducting online and tele-courses for preschool and students of secondary school s
Movement was restricted.
All kinds of public gatherings were not allowed and movement of auto and pedestrians at border crossings with China was restricted starting last January 28, 2020.
Healthcare Preparedness was strengthened.
To make sure that public healthcare is sufficient, the cabinet ordered the purchase of necessary equipment and materials while the government made sure that expenses of the emergency procurement and salaries of healthcare workers on the frontlines are handled.
At this point in time, the country still has zero cases. While some may say it was too early for them to take the steps they did, Dr. Xifeng Wu would not have agreed but said that in dealing with such virus (that has caused a pandemic later on), ‘overreacting is better than non-reacting.’
Repatriation of Mongolians in Wuhan City
On January 27, the country informed the public about its intention to repatriate Mongolians in Wuhan City while waiting for permission from China.
While others have already left, 31 out of the 250 Mongolian students in Wuhan will be repatriated, isolated and screened for Coronavirus.
Cancellation of Certain Flights
Before the month ends, a Mongolian airline company started canceling certain flights to China and Hong Kong scheduled for February and March.
Repatriation of Mongolians begins
Just days after negotiating the repatriation of Mongolians from Wuhan City in China, the 31 students were able to return to the country by February 1, 2020 and were quarantined for 14 days (which was later on extended up to 21 days for others still to be repatriated).
By February 3, it was announced that all of them, including the flight’s crew, tested negative for COVID-19.
As they carefully started evacuating Mongolians, Mongolia was able to maintain zero local transmission.
Procurement of Medical Supplies, PPEs, etc.
Also by February, the country started procuring essential medical supplies, including test kits, face masks, and protective personal equipments (PPEs) through several assistance and loans from international organizations and other countries.
Halting Coal Export
After hearing about confirmed COVID-19 cases across the border which is near the main road of coal and copper export of the country, the State Emergency Commission (SEC) decided to halt coal export until March 2 through four border checkpoints that border with China.
Though this took a hit on Mongolia’s economy, they did not stop taking action to prevent the disease from spreading.
Checking on Pharmacies, Food Markets, and Hospitals
Aside from the procurement of medical supplies and equipment, the Parliament Speaker went around pharmacies and food markets to check the sufficiency of face masks and sterilization products and prices of meat products.
Furthermore, the government visited hospitals to check on their preparedness against COVID-19 because the country has been included in the region at risk of infection and transmission based on WHO’s evaluation on February 11.
Restriction of Intercity Vehicle Movement
The SEC decided to restrict intercity vehicle movement as well as movements to Ovoos to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the Mongolian Lunar New Year Celebration on February 23-27.
SEC appealed to the public to adhere to the guidelines and prevent the risk of infection by doing a formal Mongolian greeting online for Tsagaan Sar.
Flights to Korea and Japan were suspended.
SEC decided to suspend flights to Korea and Japan.
In addition, foreign nationals and stateless persons who have been to Korea, Italy, and Japan in the past 14 days effective February 28, are temporarily restricted from entering Mongolia.
Come March 5, still, Mongolia has not recorded any COVID-19 cases but the country continued taking precautions with the help of its people donating cash and supplies.
Moreover, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Mongolia Tapan Mishra praised the country’s steps in preventing the spread of the virus.
“The Mongolian government has taken optimal measures to prevent the spread of the disease, setting a good example to the world,” Tapan said at a recent meeting with Mongolian Deputy Prime Minister Ulziisaikhan Enkhtuvshin.
Mongolia records 1st COVID-19 Case
On March 10, Mongolia recorded an imported COVID-19 case. The first case is a French national who came from Moscow on March 2.
Mongolia quarantined him, including the people who traveled on the same train with him and employees of the company where the patient is reportedly employed.
Moreover, as it was revealed that the patient went to Ulaanbaatar on March 7 for work, the Emergency Commission of the city decided to shut down a range of shops and service centers. The SEC also suspended travel by train, cars, and public transport while quarantining the entire aimag (district).
Not only that. In a report by MONTSAME, an order from the city governor said that nearly 6000 locations at risk will be decontaminated twice and more and that a total of 9.2 million square meter area will be decontaminated.
All of these steps were done after recording one case.
Reacting more than ten times the usual
With a virus that has now become a pandemic for spreading at exponential levels, this is how countries should be. They reacted not just more than ten times but they did things exponentially as well.
Starting with zero cases, they started doing more than what they can with the time given. And by the time they recorded the first, as described by Indi Samarajiva, they reacted like it was a thousand.
They even did a simulated lockdown last May 7, 2020, to gauge Mongolia’s readiness for an outbreak. Chingeltei district at Ulaanbaatar was sealed off and government and law enforcement officials, doctors, and residents all participated in the drill.
Remained at Zero Local Transmission
Still not convinced that Mongolia is doing a great job? Some may argue that it’s a remote, isolated country where people are socially distant by default since it’s the least densely populated country in the world but look closely.
Ulaanbaatar City, the capital of Mongolia, has a population of more than 1.5 million people which is over half the population of the country. And with a population density of 307/km² and having people coming in and out of the city due to migration, work, and other purposes, it will be easier for COVID-19 to conquer it.
However, the good news is that as of today, June 1, 2020, Mongolia still remains at zero number of local transmissions with a total of 185 imported cases – all returnees from abroad placed under immediate quarantine upon arrival in the country.
In the end, hopefully, we learn from Mongolia and see how what others may call ‘overreacting’ is helping this country kick COVID-19’s ass.