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Corona crisis: Greenland without sick people – but problems are just beginning

Corona crisis: Greenland without sick people - but problems are just beginning

In Greenland, all registered Covid-19 patients have recovered as the first place in the world. Now it is time to relax the tough restrictions. But finding the right exit strategy could be an even more delicate mission here than anywhere else.

210 countries and territories include the statistics of the often-cited these days Worldometer on the development of the corona pandemic. If the information is highlighted in green, this means that in the area concerned, all people suffering from Covid-19 are healthy again and there have been no deaths. For the time being there are only one such entry – for Greenland. All eleven people affected there have survived the disease.

Favorable circumstances and a bit of luck

The positive news for Greenland’s Prime Minister Kim Kielsen and his head of the health department, Henrik L. Hansen, is that this has prevented an uncontrolled spread of the virus in society. For this to succeed, Greenland had better conditions than others. The area, which belongs to the Kingdom of Denmark but is very autonomous, is not only difficult to reach, it is practically only possible to travel between the individual towns in Greenland itself by air. There are no overland roads or railways. This made it easier to quickly enforce strict restrictions on freedom of movement after the first case occurred.

Greenland – small settlements, large distances

Kielsen left nothing to chance. For the capital Nuuk, with around 18,000 inhabitants of Greenland by far the largest settlement area, as well as two other towns an alcohol ban was even imposed. On the one hand, to put a stop to fateful parties from the start; on the other hand, because one also wanted to prevent the escalation of domestic violence. Nuuk, where all eleven Greenlandic Corona cases had been recorded, was also cordoned off externally – for example for arrivals by private ship or by snowmobile. Nevertheless, a little bit of luck should have been involved that the pathogen got stuck in Nuuk.

On Monday Kielsen was able to do one Announce gradual loosening of restrictions. The large shopping center in Nuuk is to open again, and if there are still no new infections, normal school operations are likely to gradually resume next week. Those who are currently working from home, however, are encouraged to continue to do so until early May.

No security guarantee

“Why so careful?” One might ask when the risk of infection seems to be averted. But returning to normal is more delicate in Greenland than anywhere else. Because the advantages that you knew when imposing restrictions on your side are now turning into dangers. The big fear is that the virus will eventually find its way into the remote settlements, where at least two-thirds of the almost 57,000 Greenlanders live. The only hospital in Greenland that has equipment such as ventilators for severe Covid 19 cases is in Nuuk. According to Anders Koch, a Danish epidemiologist who also advises the Greenland health authority, the island’s health system outside the capital is unable to cope with a pandemic. That is why the effort is so important to never let the pathogen get there.

The green bar in the Worldometer statistics is, therefore, gratifying for Greenland, but it is far from being a free pass for a return to the time before the Corona crisis and also no guarantee of security for the future. For its economic and social well-being, the island relies on contact with the rest of the world and especially with the mother country Denmark.

This contact is currently only made by Air Greenland’s small propeller aircraft, the in marathon flights between Greenland and Denmark commute and bring freight, mail, and coronavirus test sets, but no travelers. At some point, however, the Arctic island has to let its residents leave and foreigners enter – sooner or later the virus will also be on board an airplane.

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