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A bridegroom poses for a photo as he wears a protective face mask at his wedding day amid concerns of any possible spread of the coronavirus in Sana'a. Yemen is still free of coronavirus.. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: There is only one topic dominating the world for the past two months: The insidious COVID-19 pandemic that’s wreaking havoc everywhere. Globally, well above a million people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and more than 53,000 have died. Infections have been reported by most of the 193 countries outside China that are members of the United Nations. But, miraculously, some have apparently managed to buck this trend, and have remained free of COVID-19.

These 18 countries are: Comoros; Kiribati; Lesotho; Marshall Islands; Micronesia; Nauru; North Korea; Palau; Samoa; Sao Tome and Principe; Solomon Islands; South Sudan; Tajikistan; Tonga; Turkmenistan; Tuvalu; Vanuatu; and Yemen, according to a BBC tally published on April 2.

Two Arab states on the list

Comoros, the tiny Indian Ocean island nation that is a full-fledged member of the Arab League, is one of only two nations in Arab world that have been spared the coronavirus outbreak. The other is war-torn Yemen. The health ministry in Comoros, the only Arab country located in the Southern Hemisphere, said that it is yet to detect a single case of COVID-19 on the island.

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Women walking about the streets of Moroni, the capital of the Comoros Islands. Image Credit: Meghan Hirons/Gulf News Archives

The COVID-19 has also not reached Yemen yet. But given the current situation of the healthcare system, following years of ruinous conflict, it will be a disaster if the disease hits Yemen, the poorest Arab country.

Closed countries and societies

Since the coronavirus outbreak in neighbouring China in January, North Korea has not reported a single case of the virus. The ‘hermit kingdom’ has instituted draconian quarantine measures against COVID-19, branding it a matter of “national survival”. The fact that North Korea has ardently worked to make itself perhaps the most isolated nation on earth has always helped. However, some analysts remain sceptical of North Korea’s assertion.

Though nowhere near as extreme as North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also relatively closed countries that are also among some of the least visited. Their exposure to the outside world is very limited, and this may have contributed to the absence of COVID-19 there.

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North Korean workers disinfect a hospital in the capital Pyongyang. Image Credit: AP

Three African states

Lesotho, South Sudan, and Sao Tome and Principe are also COVID-19 free, primarily because anyone hardly going there. All three places are difficult to get to and, in the case of South Sudan, the problems are compounded by the presence of armed conflict.

Island nations in the middle of nowhere

Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau; Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu are remote, in the middle of oceans, and expensive to get to. This also appears to have brought them the unexpected benefit of remaining COVID-19 free.