Corona free: The big countries that are reporting no cases of the coronavirus pandemic

It's a small mountainous African country that was the basis for Wakanda in the blockbuster Marvel film Black Panther, but Lesotho is having another claim to fame; a resistance to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, the Kingdom of more than 2 million which is surrounded by South Africa has already started to lift its lockdown.

Last week, Prime Minister Tom Thabane told schools, churches and bars to reopen, with some restrictions. Businesses must maintain social distancing and staff must work in shifts to reduce congestion. Churches must have less than 50 people per service, while people were also expected to wear face masks in public.

Thabane also said that mass-testing would begin, which could, of course, unearth some clusters.

There are a couple of factors which are helping Lesotho, suggests J. Stephen Morrison, who directs global work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as the think tank's senior vice president. It isn't the easiest country to get to, while an early lockdown in South Africa may have helped its neighbour.

However, Morrison suggests that it is really only a matter of time before cases emerge.

"They may be successful up to a point for now, but their population doesn't have immunity from this," he said.

The country is also reeling from a bizarre murder case involving the prime minister's former wife. Thabane and his current wife have been implicated in the assassination in 2017. They both deny any involvement.

On Tuesday, Thabane's coalition government collapsed, and he faces calls to step down by the end of the month.

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All this uncertainly won't help the country's fight against Covid-19, argues Morrison.

"Lesotho is a country that has been prone to instability," he said. "That sort of instability doesn't speak well to control over a virus."

Lesotho's borders are still closed, as neighbour South Africa deals with the continent's biggest outbreak of 10,600 cases and 206 deaths.

Lesotho isn't the biggest country without any reported coronavirus cases; however, the two nations above it with larger populations can be described as "unreliable".

North Korea, with a population of more than 25 million, and Turkmenistan with 6 million, claim to still be without the virus. However, both countries are notoriously private and with no freedom of the press, it is impossible to corroborate their claims. Both neighbour countries which have been epicentres, China and Iran respectively, which makes their claims ever more dubious.

Until recently, another secretive former Soviet state also claimed to be without Covid-19 — Tajikistan. However, the country announced the first cases at the end of April and, as of May 7, is reporting more than 450 confirmed infections and 12 deaths.

Overlooking Iskanderkul in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan.

Overlooking Iskanderkul in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan. Photo: iStock

On April 25, Tajikistan's government ordered to close schools, theatres and cinemas and suspend all mass gatherings. The authorities also temporarily banned exports of certain foods, such as grains, meat, eggs and potatoes.

Outside of Lesotho, North Korea and Turkmenistan, the remaining countries and states without Covid-19 cases are island nations, the vast majority being in the Pacific.

Cook Islands.

Cook Islands. Photo: Cook Islands Tourism

The Solomon Islands are the fourth-largest population-wise, followed by Vanuatu, Samoa and Kiribati. They join the likes of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau in being coronavirus-free. 

Stuff.co.nz, with AP and TNS

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