paved square in Ulaanbaatar and several tower in the background in front of a grey, cloudy sky

“Covid-19: a life-long lesson“

“Covid-19: a life-long lesson“

Anujin Undrakh and Khongoroo share their impressions on the progression
of the Covid-19 pandemic in Mongolia.

02.08.2020

Mongolia

Capital: Ulaanbaatar
Languages: Besides the official language, Mongolian, which is spoken by 90% of the population, Kazakh and Kalmyk, among others, are spoken in Mongolia.
Population: approx. 3.1 million

Did you know?

Mongolia was first infected with Covid-19 in March 2020. By now 289 cases of coronavirus have been reported, almost all of them „imported“. So far there have been no deaths.1 It appears that a major outbreak has been prevented. We had the opportunity to talk with Anujin Undrakh and Khongoroo about the current situation in Mongolia. Anujin Undrakh works as a maxillofacial surgeon in the first national central hospital in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar. Khongoroo also comes from Ulaanbaatar and is currently studying nanotechnology at the Leibniz University in Hannover. We spoke with them about the Mongolian experiences with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interview with Anujin Undrakh and Khongoroo

How were Mongolian hospitals prepared for the pandemic? Were there any bottlenecks?
If so, how were they resolved?

Anujin Undrakh: The hospitals were ready for everything. We had no shortages. However, the government decided to build a new hospital in the shortest time possible in the case that Covid-19 reached the country. And in each hospital, at least 400 beds were prepared just for coronavirus patients. We did not receive any help from other countries. But after our president visited China and gave the country 30,000 sheep, China gave us medical equipment to treat coronavirus patients.

Khongoroo: The Mongolian health system was very poorly prepared for a global pandemic. Even under normal circumstances, when a local flu epidemic is spreading, there are not enough beds in the hospitals. It was unimaginable what it would even look like if a pandemic would spread. That is why the border to China was immediately closed on 27 January, followed by the border to Russia, and gradually the borders were completely closed. Even for the Mongolians who wanted to fly back home from abroad. There was some help from the USA and other countries.

Donation tradition

Donation tradition

In Mongolia there is a centuries-old tradition of making generous donations in emergency situations. In the context of Covid-19, the Mongolian President announced in February that he would donate 30,000 sheep to China.

2

External Relations

External Relations

Mongolia is highly dependent on its exports of raw materials to China. These have now been partially discontinued & a difficult economic situation is emerging. This is based on a deeper structural dependence of the Mongolian economy on its 'eternal neighbour'. (KAS 04.05.2020).

3

Has the pandemic changed your everyday life? Anujin: has your everyday life as a surgeon in the hospital changed? Khongoroo: has the everyday life of your family and friends in Mongolia changed?

Anujin Undrakh: No, not at all. My daily routine at the hospital is still the same. The patients still come for treatment as if nothing had happened. So nothing has changed. In general, to implement the quarantine, highways and public transport were temporarily closed. All public holidays in March (International Women’s Day, Father’s Day and the Kazakh spring festival Nauryz) were cancelled in advance. Educational institutions were already closed at the end of January, and distance learning began immediately with multimedia material. Teachers and researchers identified interesting aspects that developed into remarkably constructive strategies in this crisis.

Khongoroo: Starting at the end of January, first the schools, day-care centers and in February universities and clubs, bars and some public services were closed. My two little siblings (5 and 14 years old) have been staying at home since the end of January. My 14-year-old sister has therefore received online lessons for all subjects. Especially for the children their everyday life has changed a lot, as they were not allowed to go to school for several months and could not meet their friends. But for my parents not so much has changed. Since neither of them had to do home office, they were able to go to work as usual.

paved square in Ulaanbaatar and several tower in the background in front of a grey, cloudy sky
© Erdenebayar / pixabay

What is your perception of how the government / government party is spoken about? 
For example, among your colleagues, friends or in the social media?

Anujin Undrakh: I think the government has done a good job, closing all the borders and preventing the virus from entering. The government made a good choice and acted quickly. All people I know believe the same thing. And we are very grateful.

Khongoroo: It has been said that the government – especially the Ministry of Health – has reacted quickly to the corona situation and has taken good measures under the given circumstances. In my opinion, closing the borders was a very short-term decision. This is currently affecting ordinary citizens and their businesses. In the longer term, this could turn into a financial crisis.

What are the most urgent issues that the government should address during and after Corona? 

Anujin Undrakh: Since the closure of the borders, Mongolia has been facing an economic crisis. Most people are experiencing financial problems. So I think the government should focus on that now and in the future.

Khongoroo: The most urgent issues would be, for example, the economy and the permission for thousands of Mongolians to return home from abroad.

Government measures

How do you assess Mongolia’s handling of the pandemic compared to the international situation?

Anujin Undrakh: At the moment the virus seems to have been well controlled. I think it is because the government and all the people (doctors, nurses, medical staff, street workers, police officers, etc.) worked and are working very hard on it. People and patients from other counties and districts are held far away from the capital. They can only move freely again after 21 days of special quarantine in hospitals and again 14 days at home.


Khongoroo: Compared to Germany and Europe, the people in Mongolia are very strained. I notice it myself that here in Germany normality is slowly returning and people have overcome a certain fear of Corona. I’m currently not staying in Mongolia, but I could well imagine that people are still very much afraid of Corona.

„Case zero“

„Case zero“

An entering Frenchman was the first identified person with Covid-19 in Mongolia. He violated his quarantine obligation and caused a big stir in social media.

8

How did you perceive the development of „case zero“ in Mongolia?

Anujin Undrakh: On 10th March Mongolia recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19 concerning a French citizen who arrived from Moscow on 2nd March. Thanks to our government Mongolia was ready to keep the problem under control. Everybody acted quickly and caringly. They isolated his entire office and the horse he was riding. They quarantined the whole district and shut down all trains, cars and public transport. For more than 3 months the inhabitants of Mongolia were in turmoil. But even in hard times, the hospitals and doctors remained ready, brave and hardworking. I personally was not afraid, but the situation was still very worrying. But now normality is slowly returning and the inhabitants can start to live happily on again.

Khongoroo: The first case shook people up and even caused some to panic. But fortunately, no cases have been reported since. The tests from the people who were in contact with the first case were all negative. The currently increasing number of confirmed cases is due to the foreign returnees who are immediately quarantined for 3 weeks.

Did Corona also produce positive results?

Anujin Undrakh: Nothing has changed for Mongolia. It’s still the same as usual. But I think it changed the world. Nature, pollution, and most importantly a life-long lesson for everyone. I think people have started to see life differently. They will get closer after the lockdown, they’ve become more careful. And above all, we are relieved about how people can help each other in any case and how hard someone can work. And how precious our life and our world are.

Khongoroo: To the last question I would rather answer no, if only considering the situation in Mongolia. But people pay more attention to hygiene and cleanliness now than they used to. Perhaps this can be seen as something positive.

Outlook

As Anujin Undrakh and Khongoroo report, so far Mongolia has been able to contain Covid-19. The government measures described above have proved to be successful and are recognized by the population. However, issues such as the emerging financial crisis are worrying the two interviewees. We hope that Mongolia can continue to successfully counteract the coronavirus and develop creative strategies for the problems associated with it.

Sources

  1. John-Hopkins-University (2020). Retrieved from: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/region/mongolia. Last accesed on 30.07.2020.
  2. Stolpe & Erdene-Očir (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.uni-bonn.de/neues/die-mongolei-als-vorreiter-gegen-das-coronavirus. Last accessed on 30.07.2020.
  3. KAS (4.05.2020). Retrieved from: https://www.kas.de/de/laenderberichte/detail/-/content/corona-krise-in-der-mongolei. Last accessed on 28.07.2020.
  4. Deutsche Welle (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.dw.com/de/deutlicher-wahlsieg-der-mongolischen-regierungspartei/a-53934136. Last accessed on 30.07.2020.
  5. KAS (26.06.2020). Retrieved from: https://www.kas.de/de/web/mongolei/laenderberichte/detail/-/content/erdrutschsieg-fuer-die-mongolische-volkspartei Last accessed on 30.07.2020.
  6. JPG (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.ipg-journal.de/regionen/asien/artikel/detail/das-gallische-dorf-der-demokratie-4461. Last accessed on 28.07.2020. 
  7. KAS (4.05.2020). Retrieved from: https://www.kas.de/de/laenderberichte/detail/-/content/corona-krise-in-der-mongolei. Last accessed on 28.07.2020.
  8. CNews (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.cnews.fr/monde/2020-03-12/le-francais-porteur-du-coronavirus-en-mongolie-victime-de-menaces-935552. Last accessed on 30.07.2020.

Write a comment

We look forward to your contributions on this blog in the form of questions, suggestions and criticism. It is important to us that we deal with each other in an open, friendly and respectful manner. We reserve the right not to publish racist, sexist, or other discriminating content.

Kommentar verfassen / Make a comment