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How different countries have handled the pandemic

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Art by Jessica Calaguas

Soon to be two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's not hard to see how much has changed. Since then, we’ve gone through quarantines, vaccines, and many many COVID tests. Every country has dealt with the pandemic differently, and the choices made have led to the point we’re at now. Now, let’s take a look at how some countries have paved their way through the pandemic -- some effectively, and others not so much.

New Zealand

Since the news of COVID-19 broke, New Zealand was quick to take precautions. The first case of COVID was identified in February of 2020, and just one month later the country began to set restrictions against things like travel and enact quarantines. Self-isolation protocols were set on March 1st, and by the 26th, the government issued a state of emergency and mandatory four-week long lockdown. While New Zealand’s worst numbers were from mid-March to the end of April 2020, the country had severe outbreaks quite a few times. By the end of the year, there were roughly 2,100 confirmed cases and $50 billion put into recovery of the virus. Though it isn’t mandatory, New Zealand currently asks that you are fully vaccinated to travel there. If not, you must provide a negative COVID test from 1-3 days before your flight. Currently 8.79 million doses of vaccines have been given (around 89.5% of the country’s population), and the government plans to have a high 90% soon. One of the country’s biggest strong points has been tracing apps that use Bluetooth to detect if people near you have exposed you to COVID-19. By quickly taking initiative against the pandemic when it first came around, New Zealand has managed to keep relatively low numbers for almost two years, with the exception of a few flare-ups.

The U.S.

Having their first case in January of 2020, the United States’ battle with COVID-19 has been a long one. The pandemic was officially declared a national emergency in March of 2020, and by the end of the month, most of the country was in lockdown. In April, 1 million cases were confirmed, which was a third of the globe at the time. Things continued to worsen into the new year when a new variant was found, and deaths had surpassed 2 million. After that, the President issued many new orders to improve the state of the pandemic. By extending government assistance and funding, by June of 2021 cases dropped to the lowest they had been since March of 2020. A few months after that in August, almost 70% of adults had received one vaccine dosage. Many returned to school around that time as well, where students were mandated to keep masks on at all times and socially distance from each other. Though the U.S. took some time to put more action into COVID relief efforts, by now the pandemic has greatly improved from where it started.

South Korea

South Korea has been greatly commemorated for it's response of COVID-19, and for good reason. By being early, quick, and transparent, the South Korean government was able to keep the pandemic well under wraps. During the first four weeks of the pandemic, potential spread of the virus was controlled by using high-tech resources like credit card tracking and CCTV footage. On February 18th of 2020, a 61-year-old woman in Daegu tested positive. She was dubbed as “Patient 31”, and this singular case led to the rapid spread of the virus through society. Later that month, travel restrictions and quarantine mandates were further extended; people could not enter from out of the country regardless of COVID status. Though those restrictions were partially lifted at the end of April, conditions worsened again in August. After banning large gatherings and ceasing the operations of restaurants, museums, and other business operations, the country was able to control their numbers and maintain low cases. By consistently taking action against the virus, South Korea has managed to have roughly 2 million cases in total, which is 28.57% of the United States cases.


As the country where COVID-19 was first found, China has had a long journey with the virus. It started in December of 2019, when people started coming to hospitals in Wuhan with strange, white spots on their lung scans. The sickness was traced to Huanan Seafood Market, but it’s still unknown if that's where the virus first spread from animals to humans. As officials attempted to figure more out about the unknown illness, the symptoms and state of patients worsened. In January of 2020, the government placed Wuhan under lockdown in an attempt to contain the sickness. Nonetheless, it spread too fast and numbers began to reach the thousands. After that, the World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern”, and mandatory 14-day quarantine measures were placed for anyone entering the country. Shortly after, China closed their borders as a whole. The lockdown was lifted in April, but it continued to spread to Beijing and other cities. By strictly following the country's zero-COVID policy, numbers haven’t gone above 130,000 confirmed cases. The zero-COVID policy follows closed-borders, lockdowns, 24-hour medical shifts, quarantine checks, and food delivery services for individuals stuck at home. In addition to that, the constant patrol of the streets and check-ups upon those in quarantine have been put in place. All of these components have made China one of the best countries to handle the pandemic.

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