“Get back on what track? It’s a whole new track. It’s not going back. It’s all different and it’s different forever. So it’s not getting back on track, but it’s creating my next track”. – Michelle Obama, “Becoming” (Netflix 2020)
I thank and celebrate the mothers who are emergency workers in the COVID-19 battle. In serving our community, they risk their health and that of their families. Literally, our lives and well-being are in their caring hands.
Mother’s Day presents a chance to look at the manner in which female leaders have led their nations in the COVID-19 crisis. The number of deaths reported in this article are as of April 25. The citizens of these countries are on the new track, protecting life, providing healthcare and minimizing adverse economic impact.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, the head of South Korea’s centre for disease control, led South Korea’s aggressive “test, trace, contain” strategy. South Korea is a COVID-19 response role model. It has had less than 250 deaths, with a population of 51.64 million.
There was no full lockdown in Taiwan. Tsai Ing-wen, prime minister of Taiwan, activated Taiwan’s central epidemic command center in January and subsequently introduced 124 control and maintain measures, including travel restrictions and quarantine measures. Taiwan reported six deaths, with a population of 23.78 million. It is now exporting millions of face masks to the U.S. and Europe.
Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, on March 14, imposed a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country. New Zealand has recorded 18 deaths, with a population of 4.87 million. Ardern was strong in her urging of New Zealanders to look after neighbors and those vulnerable. Also, she and her Cabinet took a 20 percent pay cut to share in the hardship being experienced by fellow citizens.
In Germany, Angela Merkel, a scientist, was direct and clear about the dangers and consequences of the virus. Using social media, she made the virus personal, including pointing out that a person who dies is “a father or grandfather, a mother or grandmother, a partner…” Germany embarked upon an extensive testing regime and its health system, which is fairly well-maintained, provided the needed intensive care beds. Germany had less than 5,000 deaths, with a population of 83.02 million.
Sanna Marin, Finland’s prime minister, moved decisively to impose a strict lockdown, including a ban on all non-essential travel in and out of the Helsinki region. As of April 25, Finland had 140 deaths, with a population of 5.52 million.
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg let “scientists make the big medical decisions”. Norway has had 182 deaths, with a population of 5.37 million. Solberg thinks that Norway’s early lockdown and vigorous testing program were key to its success.
Iceland did not close schools. Prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s offered free testing to all citizens, not only those with symptoms and implemented an aggressive tracing system. Iceland has had 10 deaths, in a population of 364,134.
Silveria Jacobs, the prime minister of Sint Maarten, seeking to address both the health and the economic crisis and trying to avoid a strict lockdown, spoke clearly to her citizens. She said, “Simply stop moving. If you don’t have the bread you like in your house, eat crackers…eat cereal, eat oats, eat sardines.” Sint Maarten has had 12 deaths, with a population of 40,000.
Barbados has had seven deaths, with a population of 286,641. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley is one of ten global advocates for the new United Nations (UN) roadmap to a post-COVID-19 recovery. The UN has issued a report, “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”. On April 27, Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, when launching the “Rise for All” initiative, designed to support the most vulnerable including small island developing states (SIDS) in the COVID-19 recovery thrust, stated, “Women are on the front lines of COVID-19 and bearing the brunt of this human crisis.”
The twin crises created by COVID-19, health and economy, assures that there is no going back. Women leaders have responded admirably to these crises. A common feature of their successes is that, for the most part, citizens trust them and have mobilized in support of their policies. Also, they recognize that the new track, in their countries and in the world, requires shared responsibility and global solidarity.
Thus far, with a population of 385,640, The Bahamas has recorded 11 deaths. This number has not increased since April 25. I celebrate the Bahamian female doctors who, like Jeong Eun-kyeong of South Korea, are five-star generals in the COVID-19 war.
Let’s do our part. Let’s look beyond the shoals, turbulent waters and clouds to a “whole new track … different…forever”.
– Allyson Maynard-Gibson