On November 12, the Mongolian State Emergency Committee announced a full curfew for five days in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. All citizens have been asked to stay home and leave only to buy food and essentials. All businesses have been closed except news media, utilities and essential city services, gas stations, supermarkets, companies engaged in food production, banks, and others. Citizens have been urged to wear masks and gloves when outside.
The measures came after a truck drive tested positive for COVID-19 after 21 days of quarantine. Every truck driver has to undergo quarantine after hauling cargo from Russia or China, Mongolia’s two neighbors. During the quarantine, according to health officials, the truck driver was tested three times for COVID-19. All three tests came back negative. Health officials have since acknowledged a breach of protocol in the quarantine measures during his stay in the hotel.
After quarantine, the driver watched a concert and visited various stores. Government officials are now working day and night to trace all the people who have been in contact with the individual. So far more than 3,000 people have been asked to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19. So far four family members of the original case, and two friends of a family member, have tested positive.
At the same time a 74-year-old woman, along with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, in Selenge province, neighboring Russia, has also tested positive. Just before being diagnosed with COVID-19, the daughter-in-law visited Darkhan city, Mongolia’s second largest city, where she visited a shopping mall and playground. It is not clear how the family got infected. It appears this case is not related to the truck driver in Ulaanbaatar. After those cases were reported, more than one hundred children were tested for COVID-19; all the tests came back negative. The authorities are working franticly to trace all the contacts. Darkhan city has been put under a curfew as well.
Mongolia as of November 16 had reported 431 cases of COVID-19, of which 328 people have recovered. The country has not seen any fatalities linked with the pandemic. Before November 12, all of Mongolia’s cases were imported from abroad via repatriated citizens.
Mongolia instituted early measures in combatting COVID-19. From February 12, the government closed all schools and mandated that all citizens wear masks. The government even suspended celebrations of Tsagaan Sar, Mongolia’s Lunar New Year as a precaution. The early measures have paid off with a low case count and zero COVID-19 deaths. Now, with the first cases of local transmission, Mongolia’s government is moving decisively to respond.
Anandsaikhan Nyamdavaa is an independent consultant based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.