The coronavirus pandemic will go down in the history books as one of the most important challenges to global leadership.
In every corner of the globe, the decisions of heads of state have directly translated into the proportion of people affected by the virus, and the months ahead will continue to strengthen this proportional relationship.
While autocratic countries such as China managed to contain the cases with harsh restrictions — to which citizens are pretty much used to — other countries such as South Korea set in motion the technological apparatus to help their citizens follow protocols.
But as we move the magnifying glass to the West, the reality is different.
In Hungary, the prime minister now rules by decree; in Britain, it took Boris Johnson to be in a critical condition for the issue to be taken seriously, and the prime minister in Israel has closed down courts and placed intrusive over-surveillance on his citizens, in the best Orwellian style.
In Italy, Spain, and France, the first countries affected by the pandemic on the continent, the isolation has been felt not only on the streets, but between each nation’s autonomy and its commitment to the Union.
But these countries have more than a pandemic in common: Men govern them all.
Countries like Germany, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Denmark have been at the forefront of the effective response to the public health crisis, and all are led by women.
Although these are relatively small countries and far from the epicenter, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has shown how trust in the head of state can make a difference.
She stood up early and “calmly told her countrymen that this was a serious bug that would infect up to 70% of the population,” according to Forbes.
“It’s serious,” she said, “take it seriously.” She did, so they did too. Testing began right from the get go.
For its part, Taiwan’s immediate response in January prevented the need for stronger measures such as the closure of the economy, requiring only 124 government-organized measures.
“Taiwan has a world-class health care system, with universal coverage,” CNN explained. As news of the coronavirus began to emerge from Wuhan in the run up to the Lunar New Year, officials at Taiwan’s National Health Command Center (NHCC) — set up in the wake of SARS — moved quickly to respond to the potential threat.
This was while other countries of similar size (such as Australia) “were still debating whether to take action.”
The Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, offered free coronavirus testing to all her citizens. Although the small island’s population may be an argument against its effectiveness, “the country has already screened five times as many people as South Korea has, and instituted a thorough tracking system that means they haven’t had to lockdown… or shut schools,” Forbes continued.
Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest head of state, launched a social media awareness plan in Finland, and Erna Solberg in Norway organized the first “adult-free” press conference to calm children’s fears and doubts.
Meanwhile, here we continue to hope that the (few) decisions made by the federal government will have the least catastrophic result, and we ask ourselves: How would things be if we finally had a woman president?