In 2009, just after he was sworn in as the first Black president of the United States of America, Barack Obama told the leadership of the United States Congress that “elections have consequences”. At that time many saw the statement as that of a winner who was exercising is bragging rights. But at this time when the world is battling with the COVID 19 pandemic which has left in its wake devastating effects such as deaths, economic collapse and financial crisis, it does seem that indeed the choice of leaders could well determine how countries will pull through this pandemic.

For national leaders, the pandemic is filled with tough decisions and dilemmas and any hesitation to put its citizen and country first could prove costly. They have to weigh the cost to their people of keeping their economy and borders open and other decisions that barely merited a second thought are now on the front burner in pandemic life.

Women fighting against coronavirus

Worldwide, the number of coronavirus cases has soared above four million people across 177 countries, and more than a quarter-million people have died, according to a New York Times analysis.

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, some countries have shown exemplary leadership and have shown the rest of the world how to fight and handle crisis management. Iceland, Taiwan, Germany, New Zealand, Finland and Denmark are the countries that have led from the front. They all have one thing in common. They are all led by WOMEN. The rest of the world has been in awe as these women have deployed technology, spoke the truth, united their countries, shown decisiveness and espoused love and harmony in these trying times. Here we take a look at how they are leading from the front and lessons to learn.

Germany – Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel calmly appealed to citizens’ reason and discipline to slow the spread of the virus, acknowledging as a woman who grew up in communist East Germany how difficult it is to give up freedoms, yet as a trained scientist emphasizing that the facts don’t lie.

“This is serious – take it seriously,” she told her compatriots. “Since German unification – no, since World War II – there has been no challenge to our country in which our acting together in solidarity matters so much.”

Women fighting against coronavirus
Chancellor Angela Merkel

Her manner of approach has remained familiar with the German people: Matter-of-fact and calm, reasoning rather than rousing, creating a message that hit home.

Ms. Merkel’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is still very much a work in progress, but a poll released Friday by ZDF television showed 89% of Germans thought the government was handling it well. The poll saw Ms. Merkel strengthen her lead as the country’s most important politician,

Taiwan – Tsai Ing-wen

As news of the coronavirus began to emerge from Wuhan in the run up to the Lunar New Year, Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen introduced 124 measures to block the spread without having to resort to the lockdowns that have become common elsewhere.

She is now sending 10 million face masks to the U.S. and Europe. Tsai managed what CNN has called “among the world’s best” responses, keeping the epidemic under control, still reporting only six deaths.

Women Leaders fighting against coronavirus
Tsai Ing-wen

Officials at Taiwan’s National Health Command Center (NHCC) — set up in the wake of SARS — moved quickly to respond to the potential threat. The Taiwanese government has also used data technology to help medical personnel identify and trace suspected patients and high-risk individuals.

“Taiwan rapidly produced and implemented a list of at least 124 action items in the past five weeks to protect public health,” report co-author Jason Wang, a Taiwanese doctor and associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine, said in a statement. “The policies and actions go beyond border control because they recognized that that wasn’t enough.”

New Zealand – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand is regarded as a global success story in containing the coronavirus – as of May 7 it has reported just 1,489 cases and 21 deaths.

By the final week of March, the country had 100 cases, but with increasing numbers of New Zealanders returning home from other parts of the world, the figure was starting to increase at a rate of 60-80 per day.

Women Leaders fighting against coronavirus
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

On March 23, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took the decision to aim for elimination and announce a lockdown. She was crystal clear on the maximum level of alert she was putting the country under—and why. She imposed self-isolation on people entering New Zealand when there were just 6 cases in the whole country, and banned foreigners entirely from entering soon after.

Many international observers believe that one of the reasons why the government’s lockdown has proved successful is because of the transparency of the messages from late March onwards.

Iceland – Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Iceland, under the leadership of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir offered free coronavirus testing to all its citizens. Iceland confirmed 1,799 cases of the virus, but just 10 people have died. The number of new COVID-19 cases each day has fallen from 106 at the peak of the outbreak to single digits — even, on some days, zero.

Alongside the testing, Katrín Jakobsdóttir set up a Contact Tracing Team, including police officers and university students, which used legwork and phone calls to identify people who had come into contact with infected individuals. A mobile phone tracing app was up and running a few weeks later.

Women Leaders fighting against coronavirus
Katrín Jakobsdóttir

The approach’s success is shown by the fact that about 60% of people who tested positive were already in quarantine after being contacted by the tracing team.

Altogether, 19,000 people were ordered into two-week quarantine. Everyone else carried on with a semblance of normality. Primary schools remained open, and some cafes and restaurants kept operating.

Finland – Sanna Marin

Sanna Marin at 34 years old became the world’s youngest head of state when she was elected last December in Finland. It took a millennial leader to spearhead using social media influencers as key agents in battling the coronavirus crisis.

Women Leaders fighting against coronavirus
Sanna Marin

A consultancy, PING Helsinki, edits government announcements so they fit easily into a social media format and sends them to a network of 1,500 influencers on its books, who are free to use words and images as they like.

A factual video about the coronavirus produced by a Finnish YouTuber, Roni Back, interviewing a government minister and a number of health experts, had over 100,000 views within two days of launch, she said.

Denmark – Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

One of the first countries in Europe to shutter its economy in response to COVID-19 was Denmark.

“We’ve managed to avoid the misfortune that has befallen a number of other countries,” Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference.

Danes were told on March 11 that their lives would need to change drastically in order to prevent the spread of the virus. On that day, the nation tuned in to a press conference after dinner, in which Frederiksen said that schools would be shut, and everybody besides emergency personnel was to stay home.

Women Leaders fighting against coronavirus
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

In a rare televised moment a few days later, Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II — a hugely popular figure in the country — addressed the nation to underline the need to comply with the new social distancing requirements. Denmark already boasts one of the world’s best functioning health-care systems, has more than seven times as many beds with ventilators as it has patients hospitalized with critical Covid-19 symptoms. And because of its universal health-care model, all treatment, including testing, is free to those in need of it.

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