In response to pandemics, World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines advise countries not to close their borders because it is ineffectual and disrupts economies. However, historical and epidemiological evidence suggests this may not apply to islands. A 2018 research by One Health Aotearoa New Zealand reviewed pandemic response policies of 44 Sub-National Island Jurisdictions (SNIJs) and 24 sovereign Small Island States (SISs), asking if islands are anchored to global WHO guidelines or charting their own course.
Gerard Prinsen (Massey University New Zealand) is one of the One Health Aotearoa New Zealand researchers. His presentation is part of the growing collaboration between Wageningen University and Massey University.
Full abstract of presentation
Not all pandemics are the same. Geography is one variable affecting the pace of a pandemic spreading. Pandemics tend to spread faster in densely populated areas with high global connectivity. This means a pandemic spreading to a small and remote island is likely to be slower. However, once established on such an island, the disease likely spreads faster. Nonetheless, when it comes to border closure as a pandemic response policy, global guidelines are the same for continental jurisdictions and island jurisdictions. The UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) argues that border closure policies are ineffectual and have huge economic costs.
In the last decade, researchers began challenging the relevance of this one-size-fits-all advice. Based on historic evidence and epidemiological and econometric calculations, it has been argued that border closure may be an effective option for islands to delay and reduce the impact of pandemics. In 2018, researchers of One Health Aotearoa New Zealand endeavoured to compile the pandemic response policies of 44 Sub-National Island Jurisdictions (SNIJs) and 24 Small Island States (SISs). In about half the cases, a policy document could be accessed.
This presentation first outlines the arguments around border closure as an island-specific pandemic response policy, before it shares the analysis of the data collected. This analysis not only explores the extent to which islands align with global WHO guidelines or begin disrupting these international guidelines by carving out island-specific responses, but it also differentiates between the responses of SISs and SNIJs.