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Updated: May 6, 2020

As countries begin to reopen, various spikes in infection rates show that the fight against COVID-19 will be a long-fought one.

From the time Dr. Li Wenliang sounded the alarm bells after the Chinese authorities worked to hide information, the world has looked to doctors and healthcare professionals to make sense of this pandemic. Pervading headlines that mix in politics and conspiracy theories make what actual healthcare professionals have to say indelible to the international discourse.

We interviewed Medical Doctors and other healthcare professionals directly involved with COVID responses around the world, and this is what they had to say:

UNITED STATES: Dr. Lisette Bizzochi (Motefiore Medical Center, New York) and Dr. Elias Naser, MD (Presbyterian Medical Group, New Mexico)

With more than 19,000 deaths, New York emerges as the epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The New York Times headlines like “'There's No Way We Can Bury or Cremate Them Fast Enough’” and “‘We Ran Out of Space’: Bodies Pile Up as N.Y. Struggles to Bury Its Dead” invade the public consciousness. Dr. Lissette Bizzochi, MD in Montefiore Hospital in Bronx, New York despairs from the human struggle and the faces behind those deaths. She empathizes with all of the victims and their families: "The most difficult parts is that families are not allowed to see their loved ones.”

Positive things and uplifting human acts can also felt all around New York. Dr. Bizzochi sees New Yorkers “...are uniting to fight these unprecedented times. Most people are paying attention and quarantining per recommendation. Healthcare professionals are giving their all to help people. Many are donating PPE’s, food, and even clothing to healthcare providers so they may be able to care for their patients.”

New Mexico, in contrast, has only had more than 3,400 cases with 123 COVID-related deaths but a recent rise of cases reported beginning of May has caused road closures and curfews among hotspots in the state. Dr. Elias Nasr, noted that changes may be “too early to tell” in the state as it looks to be in a much different stage of the disease.

Which country has had the best response against COVID-19?

  • Dr. Bizzochi: “Argentina has been very strict in regards to quarantining since after seeing outbreaks in Italy. People are not allowed in the streets. Period.”

  • Dr. Nasr: “Besides South Korea and Germany, I’m not aware of how good the other countries are doing.”

What is the best advice you can give to people around the world?

  • Dr. Bizzochi: “Don’t be selfish. Think about others. Protect the more vulnerable.”

  • Dr. Nasr: “Follow the task force guidelines if your government has not established guidelines of its own.”

What is the worst or untruthful thing you’ve heard about COVID-19?

  • Dr. Bizzochi: “Suggesting the use of disinfectants was the worst and most dangerous statement I have heard.”

  • Dr. Nasr: “The WHO should be held accountable for its lack of early warning. You can’t play politics with the well-being of the world population. China will eventually have to come to explain and admit its error. The world will never forget what it did.”

MEXICO: Dr. Emmanuel Alejandro Garcia Lopez (Mexico City, Mexico)

Dr. Lopez had an up-close and personal battle with COVID-19 when his father contracted the disease and became "incredibly sick." He observes that it has become increasingly difficult to create a consciousness about the disease as people are still leaving their homes and not following social distancing. He continues, “because of the paranoia, depression and stress, we are not just fighting one disease here. There are other medical areas affected by COVID-19.”

The failure in information dissemination and getting people to believe and understand the disease led Dr. Lopez to surmise Mexico's biggest shortcomings. “We are struggling with ICU beds, as not all hospitals are designated as COVID hospitals."

In Mexico, policies have been applied to stop massive social interactions including closing of businesses at 2pm. The use of facemasks are obligatory in Mexico and there are a reduction of cars in the streets per day designated by the numbers on their license plates.

Much criticism has been aimed at Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Dr. Lopez points culpability at the government “not taking the threat seriously in the beginning. He [President Obrador] was encouraging people to go outside their houses and visit public places. He was doing the same and giving the worst example for Mexicans.” He infers that with a better initial government attitude, there could have been better preparation for ventilators, PPE’s and staffing against COVID-19.

Which country has had the best response against COVID-19?

  • Dr. Lopez: “Those that closed their borders and quarantined in time, those testing a bigger proportion of their population, and the governments that are providing clear information. South Korea, Israel and Norway are some worth noting.”

What is the best advice you can give to people around the world?

  • Dr. Lopez: “Stop watching fake news and unreliable sources and USE A FACEMASK.”

What is the worst or untruthful thing you’ve heard about COVID-19?

  • Dr. Lopez: “…That breathing steam will help kill the virus in the throat or injecting Lysol or bleach will help fighting the virus.”

CANADA: Leila Haddid (McGill Hospital, Montreal Canada)

Leila Haddad, a Specialist in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology eyes major changes in medicine including virtual checkups becoming the norm.

When asked how Canada is doing with the rest of the world, Haddad is thankful that “Most of the European countries were 10 days ahead of Canada in having the Pandemic. Maybe this helped a bit; the government took relatively quickly drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus.”

Haddad credits Canadian government for not politicizing the pandemic and following the scientific guidelines as much as possible and it would benefit Canada to create a better response and preparedness protocol to help long term institutions.

Which country has had the best response against COVID-19?

  • Haddad: “New Zealand response gave best results in curbing the spread of Covid19 and this because of the prime minister leadership.”

What is the best advice you can give to people around the world?

  • Haddad: “If we all do our best to stop the spread of the virus by respecting social distancing... we can flatten the curve.”

What is the worst or untruthful thing you’ve heard about COVID-19?

  • Haddad: “When president Trump started to give his medical opinion without sound proof or any medical background.”

AUSTRALIA: Dr. Kylan Pathmanathan (Perth, Australia)

Australia and its closest neighbor, New Zealand, has made strides against COVID-19. So much so that, Dr. Pathmanathan’s outlook is supportive of lifting certain restrictions. He explains, “Australia is progressing very well in terms of new cases and from a mortality perspective. Western Australia (and South Australia) has lifted certain restrictions last week; this includes social gatherings up to 10 people outside. Yesterday, there were only 9 cases detected nationwide. There’s been less than 50 daily cases nationwide for over 2 weeks now. The state of Western Australia has only had 5 cases in the last week.”

That's not to say that Australia has been perfect. Dr. Pathmanathan points out the government’s worst fumbles during the pandemic. Australia allowed the cruise ship “Ruby Princess” disembark in the midst of the pandemic without any testing. He iterates that this was the “…biggest fiasco and caused hundreds of cases with multiple deaths. There are disagreements about who to blame whether it is the cruise ship or the state or health authority. The government has actually launched a homicide investigation into it. If these passengers were forced to isolate (and tested), then multiple transmitted cases would have been stopped.”

Generally, Dr. Pathmanathan’s hopes are high for Australia. After initial delay, he credits Australia’s tight travel restrictions, stricter biosecurity laws, testing availability, and PPE’s have been ramped up adequately to respond to the crisis.

Which country has provided the best response against COVID-19?

  • Dr. Pathmanathan: “Taiwan. I actually worked with an Australian/Taiwanese consultant who lives in Taiwan but works in Australia. We were discussing Taiwan’s management principles back in February prior to the large scale pandemic we see today. Early principles were implemented including limiting travel, testing, isolating and the use of masks. The Taiwanese graph is simply remarkable.”

What is the best advice you can give to people around the world?

  • Dr. Pathmanathan: “Social distancing and social isolation in the event of symptoms/sufficient contact with a known case.”

What is the worst or untruthful thing you’ve heard about COVID-19?

  • Dr. Pathmanathan: “Bleach. Full stop.”

PHILIPPINES: Dr. Yong Larrazabal (Cebu, Philippines)

Rich countries may have economic dexterity, but countries with more limited resources like Philippines have the true test of leadership. Dr. Yong Larrazabal, CEO and President of Cebu Doctors’ Hospital group predicts changing perspectives in medicine. He reveals that “professionally, it will make you go beyond your specialization. It has tested our leadership not just in managing our patients, but also in making sure that our healthcare works and workplace our safe.”

Philippines has instituted an Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ. Dr. Larrazabal intimates,

“Though we can see that our country is far from over, we remain optimistic. With the extended ECQ, we hope that our response could be quicker and that the general population will be more cooperative and patient on the effects of this crisis.”

Dr. Larrazabal understands the nuances that required to navigate the tandem of health and economic problems brought on by the pandemic. “We understand that this is not just a health crisis but also an economic one so we can only hope that the government will triple its socio-economic efforts for the people as well.” However, he warns against premature lifting of the ECQ. A premature lift may bring a preventable and unnecessary surge in the number of cases. He encourages the country to create a pandemic preparedness and response law to have a faster and quicker response to a crisis like this pandemic.

Which country has provided the best response against COVID-19?

  • Dr. Larrazabal: “Vietnam and Taiwan are doing so well that we can immediately acknowledge the effects of their preparedness. Taiwan developed a systematic contact tracing protocol and border controls. Vietnam immediately acknowledged their limited resources thus they have enacted the less is more strategy by immediately suspending flights, closing schools closed and swiftly imposing a 21-day quarantine.”

What is the best advice you can give to people around the world?

  • Dr. Larrazabal: “Please remember that it is not just about you, it is about the health and general welfare of the country and the world; thus, we all have to make a sacrifice to end this pandemic.”

What is the worst or untruthful thing you’ve heard about COVID-19?

  • Dr. Larrazabal: “That because many are not cooperating, the fight is not worth it. I will differ to that because remember that we are not just doing this but we are doing what we are doing for our family, for our children, and the future of our children's children. See them every day and you will realize that it is worth it..”

QATAR: EMD. Emergency Medicine Doctor (Doha, Qatar)

Dr. EMD (Doctor has requested not release her name and asked for anonymity).

When asked about changes in how they approach medicine in Qatar, she surmises, “Medicine has definitely changed drastically. We are used to following guidelines that shape our practice and basing our clinical decisions on previous cases we've worked on but COVID is a different animal entirely we're working blind and figuring it out as we go trying treatments without any evidence based practices or clinical trials.”

Dr. EMD notes that Qatar is in the middle ground in terms of COVID response. Due to the population and size of Qatar, the cases are on par with other countries. She acknowledges "one great things that Qatar is doing is setting up quarantine facilities to take care of all patients and families testing positive for COVID-19. Business continue running with home delivery options as long as hygiene rules are followed."

Dr. EMD wishes that people “understand the concept of not coming into the Emergency Department unless they're really sick. We still have the low priority walk-ins.”

Which country has provided the best response against COVID-19?

  • Dr. EMD: “Countries like UAE they've instituted full city lockdowns where if you need to go out you need a special permit. I know this seems extreme but we have one major hospital in Doha. We really cannot accommodate the entire population of the city getting sick at once.”

What is the best advice you can give to people around the world?


What is the worst or untruthful thing you’ve heard about COVID-19?

  • Dr. EMD: “Worst advice honestly is coming from the news and whats app forwards that all moms and elderly population believe....drink garlic lemon bullshit. The most untruthful thing is that these medications that everyone is talking about work. We don’t know what works. We hope they do but we do not actually know anything. And it sucks when you're standing a foot away from your sick patient telling him I'm going to give you this medicine and he asks is it going to make him better what do you even say?”

GERMANY: Dr. Antonella Siegrist Fürst-Stirum Klinik (Bruchsal, Germany)

Germany has been a model country for others to follow on the war against COVID-19. Dr. Antonella Sigrest believes that medicine has changed for good. She opines, “Situation is unprecedented but was somehow expected since experts around the world have been predicting a pandemic for years. The medical field is facing a crisis and was not prepared at all. And day by day we are learning more about the virus and the disease that it is causing.”