By Bulgan B
[Updated on March 16, 2020]
Three more cases of covid-19 registered on March 16, 2020 (UTC +8 Mongolia). They were on the government’s chartered flight from Seoul to UB, and the ministry was aware of the health condition of those individuals. Despite the public discontent of bringing sick people with many others in the same plane, the ministry insisted that every Mongolian has the right to be protected by the Government. The close contacts of those three cases, 111 individuals are quarantined and the test is conducted on 61 individuals which are all negative, and remaining individuals are being tested.
The National Emergency Committee (NEC) also provided updates. The Bayan-Olgii province, which is locked down as a result of 192 citizens coming in through Tsagaan Nuur port. The majority of those were Mongolian students who were studying in Kazakhstan. They are isolated in medical facilities or in their home. The government is sending chartered flight on March 18, 2020, to Istanbul to bring Mongolian citizens despite the risk of more cases of covid – 19.
[Original post on March 15, 2020]
On March 10, Mongolia registered its first positive test for the novel coronavirus case. Given the geographical attachment and the economic intensity with China, the period that the country stayed without the coronavirus is impressive, to say the least.
The country has taken extensive steps to prevent coronavirus. Following the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, China, Mongolia quickly took measures such as closing daycare and schools since January 27th, restricting and eventually stopping flights, trains and domestic and international travel. The country also celebrated this year’s lunar New Year, the biggest holiday celebration, on the small scale if celebrated at all due to the fear of transmitting the coronavirus to the elders.
This first positive case is a French citizen who was on a working visit to Mongolia. Disregarding the two-week self-isolation warning, he traveled and commuted extensively with direct contact with about 120 people and indirect contact with over 500, traveling to Dornogobi province on the public train from Ulaanbaatar. Currently, about 269 tests (National Center for Communicable Diseases of Mongolia’s update on March 15, 2020, see https://news.mn/) were carried out on those with close contacts and all came back negative. The French citizen was harshly criticized for bringing in Covid-19. Many people, including some public figures, expressed discontent, calling his ignorance of the self-isolation warning “a neocolonial attitude” towards so-called developing countries. This discontent was not the only reaction. The French citizen was quickly forgiven, and a lot of people started sending him to get-well letters, notes and a lot of support messages on social media while he is being treated at the National Center for Communicable Diseases.
(letter from a fifth grade student Oyuntsetseg N, in Orkhon province, who wrote to the French citizen that she does not believe that he spread this contagious disease intentionally, and she wishes him to fight with this sickness and get better soonest, and she wishes him and his family a long happy life.)
хүний өөрийн ялгаа юу байхав хоёр хүүгийн эцэг Франц эр түргэн эдгэрээсэй дээ. гэхдээ л хариуцлагагүй эр шүү!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— их хотын иргэн (@zorigt2002) March 11, 2020
(A tweet by a Mongolian citizen that says “ours or not, he is a father of two, hope the Frenchman gets better soon, though he is still irresponsible”)
The current accessibility and availability of medical care could be another factor that people are diligent in observing the home-quarantine in addition to their care for their elders. In parallel, the government’s reaction in taking swift action to implement social distancing strategies has been helping the country to stay free of coronavirus. Though the economic impact could not be assessed at great depth and scale, right at this point, many small and even medium-size business owners are reporting that their business is facing difficulties in paying rents and paying salaries.
Another interesting observation is an increase in social cohesion among countries that are impacted by the covid19 pandemic. Although in Mongolia, there is only one active case of coronavirus, the increase in the degree of unity (against common threat) will have an impact on social behavior towards many polarising issues, including corruption.
An interesting political discourse in relation to coronavirus has emerged surrounding the parliamentary election this year. Whether the government’s swift action secured some sort of confidence in political figures from the public or in the public service (distrust of political parties and public service is reported high). Political campaigns since the democratic revolution in 1990 have been growing more colourful and eventful in recent elections. However, with the outbreak of the pandemic covid19, the campaigns have not been active in the media. Although PR campaigns are overshadowed by current events, the pension loan write-off on December 31, 2019 by the President Battulga and student loan write-off proposal submitted on March 2, 2020 by the Minister of Education, Culture, Science, and Sports would have an influence on voters’ choice.
Currently, the Ministry of Health reported that since January 9, the country isolated and observed 1,328 individuals, and as of today there are 609 people in a medical isolation facility. According to Canada’s assessment, Mongolia falls on the third level, which that the Canadian government is advising to “avoid all non-essential travel”.