Which countries have beaten COVID-19?

A photo of a snow-covered mountain in New Zealand, one of the countries to beat Covid-19
Photo via Pedro Szekely/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When it comes to dealing with the global coronavirus pandemic, some countries are handling things better than others. To date, there are about 30 countries that have zero—or nearly zero—coronavirus cases, according to the website EndCoronavirus. So, which countries have beaten COVID-19—at least so far?

Describing itself as a “volunteer coalition of over 4,000 scientists, community organizers, business owners, and individuals,” EndCoronavirus collates a massive amount of coronavirus data and classifies countries and regions according to how well they are handling the pandemic. “Green countries” are those that are considered to have successfully contained, or are close to containing, the virus. This is evidenced by a maintained rate of zero or near-zero new coronavirus cases per day.

The 30 countries listed in the green zone which have beaten COVID-19 as of Feb. 22 include: Afghanistan, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Djibouti, Dominica, Fiji, Haiti, Holy See, Iceland, Laos, Liechtenstein, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Monaco, New Zealand, Niger, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.

Considering Mongolia shares a border with China, where the virus originated, its response to the virus has been impressive. Meanwhile, the New York Times proclaimed in February that China “beat the virus and roared back,” and the Atlantic proclaimed Bhutan the “unlikeliest pandemic success story.”

According to EndCoronavirus’s criteria, green-zone rankings are based on the absolute number of cases in a specific region, rather than per capita cases. As explained in the site’s FAQ, “When it comes to eliminating the virus, the number of new cases per day must be zero. The fraction of the population that is infected is not what matters. If a country has 100 new cases per day, that provides many routes for the virus to spread. It does not matter whether the population is 1,000,000 or 10,000,000.”

New Zealand, previously lauded for having no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 since May, was hit by a sudden coronavirus resurgence in August. But as of Oct. 27, it was back in the green zone.

On Sept. 21, New Zealand ended all pandemic restrictions for areas outside of Auckland, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “Our actions collectively have managed to get the virus under control.” A Nature.com study agreed. In December, researchers wrote that by “implementing a strict and early lockdown in New Zealand rapidly reduced multiple chains of virus transmission.” As a result, New Zealand will partner with Australia in a travel bubble beginning in early 2021.

In late October, Melbourne, Australia ended its 112-day lockdown, and Taiwan celebrated 200 straight days without a locally transmitted case of COVID-19. An outbreak in the Australian state of Victoria in mid-February, though, stopped fans from watching the Australian Open from the stands.

But Australia also isn’t planning on reopening its borders to other countries until 2022, and 71% of Australians believe the border should be closed until the pandemic has been beaten. In late January 2021, New Zealand had basically the same plan as Australia.

American Samoa, meanwhile, continues to have virtually no coronavirus cases.

Other nations with cases on a downward trajectory—but not necessarily topping the green-zone ranking—include Algergia, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia, Burkina Faso, Burma, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Georgia, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

In contrast, the U.S. is zoned as a “red country.” Red countries are nations with increasing coronavirus numbers, steady infection numbers, or numbers that are diminishing at a slow rate. The rates in most U.S. states are increasing as well, and the Thanksgiving holiday almost surely made things worse.

How is the U.S. doing?

The U.S. is among the countries most affected by the virus, as of Jan. 29. Data is based on a country having more than 1 million inhabitants and its reported number of deaths per 100,000 people.

The U.S. has reported more than 28.13 million cases and more than 499,000 deaths so far, as vaccines continue to roll out across the country.

How long will it take countries to beat COVID-19?

EndCoronavirus has many resources and strategies advising what can be done to reach zero new coronavirus cases and which would allow countries to beat COVID-19, but most are things we already know: strict lockdown protocols, strict travel restrictions, massive testing, and masks. “Things will get worse before they get better, but we can win by anticipating it and going all out,” the site reads. “Once we do, we can stop it in five weeks.”

Read more on traveling during the pandemic:

Sources: EndCoronavirus, Nature, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

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