While it is clear that the globe has been experiencing systemic social and financial inequality, a pandemic does call for immediate and directed action. The nations that are best handling the virus are the ones that have acknowledged the existence of inequality amongst their people and who have wasted no time in distributing resources accordingly. According to Time Magazine, Iceland makes the list of the most successful countries in battling the coronavirus. The Icelandic government recently released a second stimulus package, but as a secondary measure; their priority is their nation’s health. They started testing their population for COVID-19 in March, far before other nations, in order to identify which Icelanders needed to quarantine. By the release of this article on June 12, 2020, there had not been more than 10 deaths from the virus.
Reuters claims that Iceland offered a total of $420 million in disaster relief for “smaller businesses and vulnerable groups” after their initial $1.6 billion package when the virus first hit. The government understands the severe impact their shut-down had on their population, especially marginalized groups. And yet, their shut-down was significantly shorter than that of other nations. Their small size surely helps, but they also recognized the threat early, immediately implemented precautionary measures, and identified the populations most vulnerable. The government has given front-line medical workers immense bonuses on their pay to compensate for the risk they are taking, they have created around 3,000 summer jobs for those out of work, and they have implemented summer school for students who lost time on their studies. It seems that both a nuanced and comprehensive approach to fighting the coronavirus is key when there is such disparity in how the global population experiences the threat of this virus. Now is not the time for nationalism; now is the time for recognizing where one’s population might fall through the cracks.
In the United Arab Amirates, all COVID-19 treatment is free of charge, because the government recognizes that not all of their citizens have access to health insurance.
New Zealand has offered a total of $9 billion to workers living paycheck to paycheck. CNBC explains that this assists businesses in continuing to pay their workers sufficiently even throughout this pandemic. However, perhaps the most moving and effective action in New Zealand has been a symbolic one: their leader’s open acknowledgment of the inequality in their own country. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decided back in March that she, along with other officials, would take a pay cut on their own income of 20%. This profound act was not actually one that would offset the costs of coronavirus; rather, Ardern explained that it is a move of solidarity with her people, both an emblematic and a tangible step towards a country with a level playing field.
Forbes recently published an article explaining that the best way for big businesses to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 is for CEO’s and senior leaders to take their own pay cuts. The globe is seeing a shocking number of lay-offs, sending millions of people below the poverty line. Harvard Business Review explains that this not only can off-set costs and allow companies to continue paying their employees, but it can also boost morale, ensuring workers that their time and livelihoods are more valuable than their boss’ comfort.
Tangible solidarity in the face of crisis is the only way countries are moving forward. Equitable distribution of resources is both a life-saving plan and a preventative measure for future crises.