Five women. Five countries. One pandemic.

We hear the news about the progress, or regress, some countries have made in the battle to overcome the Coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed a million lives. Each country opted for their own measures to control the situation: setting up lockdowns to try to maintain low death rates, or keeping bits of the economy open in an effort to retain a ‘normal’ economic shape.

Little was known about the virus in the early stages, but the public health response has slowly gotten a better understanding of the disease. This has allowed governments have been able to manage it better. Five women from five different countries share their view on measures wielded by governments to reduce the virus from spreading.

Maria Chiara (Italy) and Sophie (Germany) are content with how quickly and efficiently their governments first handled the situation, as measures were driven by health staff. Italy had one of the strictest lockdowns, with people having to fill out self-authorization forms so as to leave the house. Germany’s main issue was that student loans didn’t come in time, resulting in many students losing their apartments and having to go back to their homes. As the number of infected people or deaths slowly dropped, both governments loosened social distancing measures moderately, and people have continued to wear face masks even in places where it’s not mandatory.

In Zambia, according to Ngosa, the government was also quite quick in prohibiting public gatherings and making face masks mandatory in public spaces. All in a effort to combat the pandemic. And even schools were closed from June to September, for the cold season. The government was transparent in their weekly announcements about the number of people infected, highest prevalence areas and deaths. However, it has been “business as usual” for a while now: religious gatherings have been resumed, and schools and most businesses are open; and masks are mandatory in public spaces.

Gabby, who lives and works in Jordan, explains that the government established a very strict curfew after the failed attempt at a proactive approach of distributing small payments and bread. This kept a very low number of infected until September, but the government started to reopen businesses and services in an effort to help the precarious economy, worsened by the increase of unemployment rates. All of this has especially affected the large refugee population, many of whom rely on aid to cover basic necessities and who, for the most part, work in the informal labor market. The Ministry of Education is working closely with Humanitarian agencies to switch to online education, but refugee children are finding it hard to keep up as they often lack devices or internet access. A concern that is also shared by Kimmy, from Hong Kong, where the most marginalized – including refugees – are at particular risk. Access to sanitation products and online learning platforms and resources is very poor, and a added to the food shortage, makes these populations much more vulnerable during the pandemic. Global predictions state that the rates of children out of school will increase as more children need to work to help support their families.

It is clear that each country experiences COVID in its own way, and seemingly, treatment protocols are having an effect on the return to ‘normality’. What’s not so clear is what affects more: the disease or its side effects.

Makes one wonder whether less privileged communities will be able to make it through in this fight for survival.