COVID-19: New Zealand, the Best Managed Country in the World
By Louis Torronde , 14 October 2020
One of the industrialized countries with the least severe Covid-19 crisis is New Zealand.
This success can be explained on the one hand by the insular nature of the country, it is easier to filter potential contaminated arrivals when the points of entry are very limited, and on the other hand because the New Zealand government chose, from the very first appearance of the virus on its soil, to adopt an extremely firm policy in terms of health. From mid-March and before the 1st death, the country closed all non-essential businesses, schools and cancelled all gatherings and events, with non-essential workers being allowed to leave their homes only for physical exercise.
As an example, Australia and Great Britain, other island nations, have experienced greater contamination because these countries favored, at least initially, the free movement of people and the maintenance of economic activity rather than strict travel controls.
The counterpart for New Zealand is a sharp drop in GDP to more than 12% in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 7% for Australia, for example, but this choice to focus on health rather than the economy has been understood and accepted by the population.
All governments do not have the same level of support from the population, as in France in particular, and are rather confronted with systematic questioning and discussion of the decisions taken, with instructions that are not respected by a section of the population and that have an impact on the overall evolution of the spread of the virus. In New Zealand, none of this is the case, the choices are approved, however severe they may be, and above all are applied. The net result is that the country has 25 deaths per 5 million inhabitants, compared to 816 deaths per 25 million inhabitants in Australia.
Other countries are seeing the spread of the virus limited, even though predictions predicted a disaster. These are mainly countries on the African continent, which at the end of September had 1.4 million confirmed cases and 35,000 deaths per 1 billion inhabitants, while Europe has 5 million confirmed cases and 230,000 deaths per 800 million inhabitants.
Africa's good results can be explained in particular by the low population density and the average age of the African population (most Covid-19 infections occur in people under 60 years of age and are asymptomatic). But scientists in Africa and in the United States, such as Shaun Truelove, an expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, are also beginning to consider the possibility of cross-immunity linked to other coronavirus contagions in the past, as well as sociological reasons, as relationships between individuals are more outdoors in Africa and rather indoors in Europe and industrialized countries, to explain these differences in the evolution of Covid-19.
The African Continent
African countries, like New Zealand, are also countries that are less connected to international trade and have been very quick to take strict measures to limit travel and gatherings. At the same time and in return, these countries are already experiencing or are likely to experience a more significant effect of the contraction of economic activity and for Africa in particular significant effects related to malnutrition and the deterioration of the usual public health campaigns.
Genetics also invites itself to explain the diversity of the propagation of Covid-19 throughout the world. Belgian researchers have highlighted a link between a gene more resistant to Covid-19 (ACE1) which is more present in the population of Northern and Eastern Europe.
In addition, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently identified a gene typology that increases the risk of Covid-19 worsening, based on the findings of a French-American study on the effects of one of the 23 chromosomes of the human genome, chromosome 3, on severe forms of Covid-19. These genes, inherited from Neanderthal man, are present in 50% of the South Asian population and in 16% of the European population, but these same genes are absent from the African and East Asian populations.
It is also interesting to consider the article by the CHU Sainte-Justine research center in Montreal entitled "Genetic ancestry and natural selection drive population differences in immune responses to pathogens in humans" published in the journal Cell on October 20, 2016 which presents the differences in immune responses between Americans of African and European ancestry. This study shows that Americans of African descent have a stronger immune response to infections than those of European descent and that these differences in immune responses are mostly of genetic origin, inherited from our Neanderthal ancestor. Professor Barreiro, director of the study, says: "The immune system of African-Americans responds differently, but it cannot be concluded that it is better, because a stronger immune response also has negative effects,….. Too much inflammation can also damage organs and leave a legacy. In short, a strong immune response in one context may be beneficial, but inappropriate in another context. »
Montreal – Quebec
Thus, the contagion with Covid-19 is also the result of many genetic reasons, over which the individual has no control and help to understand why certain regions of the world are more affected than others whatever the proposed health system (Indian peninsula, Europe or North America), societal reasons, the modes of development and communication of the society in which each individual lives can facilitate the transmission of the virus (highly internationalized societies such as in Europe or North America), and individual choices, the respect of the instructions defined by the governing authorities allowing to limit the spread of Covid-19 (certain European countries or the United States for example). Finally, other countries have other problems that add up to amplify the situation related to Covid-19, economic crisis, crisis of the health system, government decisions, … it is particularly the case of Latin American countries such as Peru, Brazil or Argentina among those affected.