American Samoa recorded its first Covid-19 case of the pandemic Friday as a traveler from Hawaii tested positive for the coronavirus upon arriving in the U.S. territory, taking itself off a dwindling list of countries and territories that haven’t reported any positive Covid-19 cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) since the pandemic began—here are the places that are still Covid-free:
Many of those islands have been helped by strict Covid-19 protocols that have severely restricted outside visitors, as well as by being small islands with relatively few visitors and low population counts.
The largest countries that haven’t reported any Covid-19 cases to the WHO are North Korea and Turkmenistan, though both of those countries are widely suspected to have had Covid-19 cases that have gone unreported.
A June report of a meeting in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized officials for causing a coronavirus-related “crisis” raised speculation the country was dealing with an outbreak of the virus.
Turkmenistan has historically hid outbreaks of other diseases like HIV/AIDS and plague, experts noted to BBC News in March 2020, and human rights activists have decried the government’s alleged efforts to conceal its Covid-19 outbreaks, with the BBC reporting the country may currently be undergoing a third Covid-19 surge.
228.66 million. That’s the total number of Covid-19 cases that have been recorded worldwide since the pandemic began as of Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.
What We Don’t Know
Countries and territories’ lack of reported Covid-19 cases may not necessarily mean there haven’t been any Covid-19 infections at all. While it’s possible countries haven’t detected any cases because there haven’t been any Covid-19 infections, it’s also possible some cases could have gone unreported due to inadequate testing or Covid-19 spread that went undetected, in addition to any potential efforts by governments to conceal cases, as may be the case in North Korea and Turkmenistan.
While at least most of these places appear to have successfully evaded the virus, other countries that have adopted so-called “Covid zero” strategies meant to keep the coronavirus out have suffered outbreaks. Fiji experienced a massive Covid-19 outbreak that began over the summer after going a year without recording notable community transmission of the virus, and much of Australia was forced into lockdown as the delta variant took hold, prompting the continent to abandon its zero-Covid strategy.
In addition to the countries that have gone without any cases of Covid-19, the WHO reports that Samoa, Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands and Palau have also all recorded five or fewer confirmed Covid-19 cases.
American Samoa’s case was a fully vaccinated traveler who tested positive while quarantining after arriving on the island, the territory’s Department of Homeland Security reported, after previously testing negative before the journey. Officials report the traveler was asymptomatic. American Samoa Gov. Lemanu Mauga, who the Associated Press reports was on the same flight as the Covid-infected traveler and is now in quarantine, said in a statement the positive case proved why the country’s Covid mitigation protocols have been effective, saying it “highlights the importance of why our process is critical to prevent the spread of Covid-19” and “the importance of maintaining our current quarantine protocols.”
How bad is the COVID-19 pandemic in North Korea? Here’s what we know (Los Angeles Times)