How Women Leaders Are Tackling COVID-19 in their Countries
Updated: Oct 13
Women leaders around the world have been actively working to control the spread of COVID- 19 in their countries since early 2020. Leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany, Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, and Erna Solberg of Norway are some examples of the many female leaders who have shown the world the proper way to handle an international crisis.
From the start, Angela Merkel has been known as a very straightforward, no-nonsense leader. She used this trait to her advantage when dealing with the coronavirus in Germany. She was direct with her people, and told them exactly how large a threat this virus would be. In early March, she stated that it was very likely that 70% of the German population would end up contracting the virus. Under her leadership, Germany also created the world’s first diagnostic test for the virus in mid-January.
Because of Merkel’s immediate recognition and action against the coronavirus, Germany was able to skip the denial phase which many other countries went through. For example, Donald Trump of the United States, Xi-Jiping of China, and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil all suppressed concerns for the disease when it first appeared in their countries. Jair Bolsonaro even stated that the coronavirus was merely “a little flu or a bit of a cold”. However, their countries ended up being some of the most infected in the world, with the U.S. and Brazil currently ranking first and second respectively.
Tsai Ing-Wen had one of the quickest responses to COVID-19 in the world. When the first infected person was discovered in Taiwan on January 21, officials began investigating the travel and contact history of every new patient, especially passengers on flights from Wuhan China, in order to try and stop the spread of the virus. Since mid-January, 124 measures have been administered to monitor border control, case identification, and patient containment, allowing Taiwan to avoid lockdown measures. This quick action by Ing-Wen is why Taiwan only has 475 cases and 7 deaths to date.
On February 2, Jacinda Ardern placed a travel ban on China. Later, she placed flight bans on South Korea, Iran and northern Italy; in addition to having New Zealanders returning from these countries were required to quarantine for 14 days. Then in mid March, Ardern ordered a full scale lockdown with only 102 cases and no deaths in her entire country. This relatively low case rate already shows the success of her previous decisions. Ardern’s goal was to eliminate the virus completely as quickly as possible. She did not want to wait for conditions to worsen in order to justify her decision to lockdown the country. The lockdown lasted six weeks with only essential workers leaving their houses. New Zealand reopened on June 8 after no new cases had appeared for 17 consecutive days and all patients had fully recovered. Ardern faced criticism from people saying the economy was unnecessarily harmed because of her early lockdown. Ardern says she will “make no apologies” for her early actions, with 80% of New Zealand’s population backing her decisions. The World Health Organization “has praised New Zealand for acting quickly, holding it as an example to other countries”.
Katrín Jakobsdóttir has also had great successes battling corona in Iceland. Iceland offered free corona testing to all of its citizens, not only those who showed symptoms, as early as March. Jakobsdóttir stated on June 15, “In March, while countries like the U.S. were struggling to roll out coronavirus testing, Iceland has the highest ratio for test per capita in the world”. This very thorough screening has allowed Iceland to avoid a complete lockdown.
Norway’s Erna Solberg used a very simple yet effective technique to inform her country’s youth about the global pandemic. She decided to hold exclusive press conferences for children. During these conferences, children were allowed to ask questions to Solberg, in addition to her explaining why it is okay to be sacred during this crisis.
These examples again prove the need for more women to take part in politics and hold major leadership positions. Women are strong leaders. When they are given leadership positions, women have the ability to use their skills to lead their countries efficiently, especially through times of crisis.