COVID-19 Response: Senegal is Second Best in the World, USA Near Bottom of the Table

Though the Olympics could not hold this year, the coronavirus pandemic has put every country to the test, watching how they stack up against one another in the race to defeat the deadly virus. Governments are being assessed on so many fronts, from their interventions to conduct testing and tracing in the community to their policies on face masks and interventions to deliver them. As with the Olympics, countries are coming out differently in the contest against the new coronavirus and there are a few surprise performances and upsets.

Before Africa recorded a single case, western scientists and journalists expressed fears the continent would be severely impacted by the novel coronavirus due to the fragility of healthcare systems. Ironically, the world’s poorest continent appears to be doing better than most, while world powers like the United States struggle to keep heads above water. This was revealed in the COVID-19 Global Response Index published by Foreign Policy.

Based on data collected from the beginning of the year, the report analysed the response of 36 countries – Senegal came out number 2, just behind New Zealand. Also in the top ten is South Africa, with Kenya and Ghana just outside the top ten. The United States sits in the bottom five alongside Iran, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey.

With an overall score of 89.3, Senegal’s position at the top comes as no surprise. An overview of the country’s superbly efficient response justifies such evaluation. Its history with the Ebola and other outbreaks within and outside its borders has over the years increased Senegal’s readiness in combating epidemics. Immediately the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global health emergency on January 30, 2020 the Government of Senegal formulated a contingency plan. President Trump of America as late as early April was still assuring Americans there was nothing to worry about.

Senegal recorded its first case on March 2, 2020, making it the second Sub-Saharan country after Nigeria. Less than two weeks later, Senegal banned public gatherings, imposed travel restrictions and closed down schools. The government proceeded to ramp up testing capacity and roll out its isolation centers. President Macky Sall announced that anyone who tested positive [symptomatic or otherwise] would be immediately isolated. To ensure this, hotels and other available residential structures were converted to isolation centers. Dr. Abdoulaye Bousso, director of Senegal’s Health Emergency Operation Center explained that transparency has aided the country’s success so far, noting that the government has been committed to keeping the public abreast of every single development.

In April, Senegal began work on a $1 testing kit that deliver results in ten minutes. By the following month, scientists in Dakar had begun the development of $160 ventilators while other countries were looking for handouts. That same month, engineers in the country created Dr Car, a robot which delivers medicine and food to patients without contact with health workers. So far, Senegal has only recorded 13,987 cases and 290 deaths.

On the other hand, the United States’ response has come under fire, with Bill Gates calling it “absolutely useless”.  With 6.29 million cases, America accounts for 23% of the world’s new coronavirus cases. This can be blamed neither on an underfunded healthcare system—the country spent $3.65 trillion on heathcare in 2018—nor lack of early knowledge about the coronavirus—China had warned about the virus since December, 2019.

The scientific community appears to point fingers at President Donald Trump. In July, 1,200 members of the US National Academy of Sciences signed an open letter rebuking what they called Trump’s “denigration of scientific expertise”; he had publicly ignored advice from his advisors and repeatedly misled the media about the lethality of the virus. President Trump boldly told the American people that the pandemic was not at all serious and that “like a miracle, it will disappear”.

While other countries were attempting to create cheap, if not free, coronavirus testing, Americans reported being charged thousands of dollars just for getting checked for the virus. The rush to reopen schools led to over 70 major school-related outbreaks all over the country.

As in the Olympics, it is not always about the money you spend. Tiny Senegal, with a GDP of $23.58 billion and a population of 15.85 million completely has outclassed the United States of America in the fight to contain the novel coronavirus.

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