News The greatest success in eradicating the coronavirus is in Australia’s backyard
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The greatest success in eradicating the coronavirus is in Australia’s backyard

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When New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced the island nation had managed to stamp out the coronavirus, it was met with much fanfare – with many experts lauding Aotearoa for its effective response.

But another of Australia’s neighbours has had even greater success in eradicating the coronavirus.

Timor-Leste.

The island nation to Australia’s north has had no new cases reported since April 24, no active cases since May 15, and no deaths at all.

It has, in part, come down to a “progressive and proportionate” government response which swiftly recognised the growing threat.

Timor-Leste reported its first coronavirus case on March 21, with a state of emergency declared by its president Francisco Guterres a week later.

It remains in place today.

A Timorese policeman wearing a face mask asks motorists to only be one person per bike to ensure social distancing. Photo: Getty

The majority of its cases were imported by Timorese students returning from Indonesia, who were all identified and isolated before the disease had the opportunity to spread to the wider community.

Furthermore, it isolated itself from all other countries, imposing stronger controls on the Indonesian land border, as well as suspending schools, public gatherings and public transport.

It was a decision borne out of necessity with the country’s healthcare system unable to effectively respond to a spiralling localised endemic.

In May, the Australian government shifted more than $280 million in foreign aid to help Timor-Leste, Indonesia and a number of countries in the Pacific deal with the coronavirus.

The number of total cases in Timor-Leste. Graphic: Worldometers

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Partnerships for Recovery report warns health systems may be overwhelmed and millions unemployed, with a risk of political and social instability in the region.

“The scale of the COVID-19 crisis will dwarf the resources we have available,” it says.

These resources have helped continue Timor-Leste’s response, which includes a public health campaign on the importance of hygiene and social-distancing.