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COVID-19 & the small island advantage

Dickson C. Igwe. Photo: VINO/File
By Dickson C. Igwe

Until a vaccine or cure, geography, control of population movement, and good governance are three of the most crucial factors in keeping the COVID-19 pandemic under control and at bay, in the British Virgin Islands.

Presently there are 17.5 million cases of COVID 19 globally and a rising death toll of nearly 700,000. The pandemic is actually accelerating, and showing no sign of slowing down.

The USA is by far the worst affected country. As of July 31 2020, there were 4.6 million cases of COVID in the US and 155,000 deaths. The US has over 26% of the world’s cases of COVID-19 and over 22% of COVID deaths. This is the result of a horrific failure of leadership that could make the Donald Trump Presidency a one-term affair.

Trump was well on his way to a second term, and even a landslide win, before the pandemic reared its ugly head.  Gross mismanagement of the pandemic resulted in a leadership that has lost complete control of the narrative and trajectory of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters in spite of the clear evidence, believe COVID-19 is a conspiracy and hoax, designed to ‘’get their man.’’

Today, US citizens are not expected to be allowed to travel out to most countries of the world until the ending of 2021, and even that might be optimistic. The US passport, once a travel document to envy, is today practically useless. 

Now large diverse countries have not fared well with the Coronavirus. Large and powerful states such as The USA, UK, Brazil, India, and Mexico, and a number of European states, have taken a severe beating from the virus.

On the other hand, a number of islands in the Caribbean, Micronesia and islands in the Pacific, and small countries such as New Zealand, and Cape Verde off the West African coast, have been successful in containing and managing the spread of the COVID 19 virus. 

The reason for the preceding is that it is much easier for these countries to shut their borders and lock down their societies than say a USA with 360 million people that had planes filled with people arriving from Corona hot spots up and until the end of April 2020, And even after that with flights from Europe and Asia that kept flying in until early June.

After a deadly visit by COVID 19, that killed tens of thousands, Europe was only able to flatten the pandemic’s curve by restricting the movement of its 450 million residents by suspending the Schengen Agreement.

Massive countries are at far greater pressure to evade the need for strict control measures against COVID owing to their hosting large and diverse internal markets that are unable to break complex supply chains, without causing severe economic disruption.

Lockdown in specific states and communities of the USA has resulted in deep economic contraction and a huge surge in unemployment. It is a similar story in the UK.

It is much easier for a country such as the British Virgin Islands with a population of 30-40 000, and just a few hundred square miles to manage a pandemic effectively by locking down its communities, and shutting its borders, than a nation of 300 million with millions of square miles.

It is easier for a small country to test trace and isolate, as most of its inhabitants are a short car drive away from major health facilities. Any infected traveller entering a small territory that is managing its health resources effectively can be better placed in isolation, than one entering a country that is millions of square miles. In the latter, the infected individual disappears into a vast society and can end up infecting thousands.  

Countries with external borders that are thousands of miles from one border to the next, on the opposite end, and countries with thousands of miles of porous border, are much more difficult to manage in terms of pandemic control.

The small island advantage cannot be taken for granted. Geography and the ability to contain the pandemic by swiftly shutting down is the greatest asset small countries possess in the fight against the Corona Virus, in absence of vaccine or cure.

And suffering economic hardship for keeping the country safe and COVID free is a price well worth paying, instead of the peril of a deadly COVID 19 surge in societies that have neither the resources nor the ability to deal with mass infection and death.

Should that COVID surge happen through carelessness and irresponsibility, these societies stand to not only lose their health and wellbeing, but their economies will also actually contraction to an even greater degree: a double whammy.

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2 Responses to “COVID-19 & the small island advantage ”

  • Yes (01/08/2020, 09:29) Like (2) Dislike (2) Reply
    Another great piece
  • NezRez (01/08/2020, 10:07) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Mr. Igwe, what you are saying is so true. This pandemic has reduced the earth's population by millions, which is what the new world order wanted in the first place. What the ones in charge of all of this mess didn't know is that it would get so out of control. Now, as far as we here in the BVI go, the government has done an excellent job so far. Not listening to naysayers to open the borders and places where people like to closely mingle also has saved us, but with people sneaking in here, I really don't know how we can stay safe much longer. If this pandemic gets here and spread, our small population will surely die quickly. The reason is, some of our people are still not following the rules of safe distancing and wearing masks, because they have gotten too comfortable being safe so far. If an outbreak happens here, they won't have a clue how to do the correct things, which they should have known from the beginning, like the rest of us. As long as people here keep help smuggle others in, we will have hell to pay if they are infected. This is just my opinion because I am not an expert on anything, but really trying to do my part avoiding all of the obstacles that may be thrown our way.

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