Restrictions and ambitions

By: Johnny Baltzersen 

It could be better. With COVID-19 in Mongolia. But there is hope.

We have previously described how the country kept the infection down throughout 2020, with very few cases and no deaths recorded. Schools and universities have been closed most of the time since February 2020. Public and private workplaces have operated under strict restrictions.

But, like everywhere else, there are economic and social costs to shutdowns, and during March, the Mongolian government caved in to pressure to reopen. The hammer fell immediately. In less than a month, the number of infected people has tripled to 10,218 registered cases. The death toll stands at 11, compared to 2 deaths as of March 1st.

The increase is most pronounced in the capital Ulaanbaatar, where the number of new cases over the past few weeks has fluctuated between 200 and 600 daily. There are still relatively few cases in rural areas where they are also able to react promptly with shutdowns without major financial consequences. On the other hand, it’s a pain for schoolchildren who have to get in and out of lockdowns. All schools opened on March 1st, but now many have closed down again and the children from the nomadic families have been sent home.

Restrictions, vaccinations and summer hopes

There is hope, however, and it’s linked to new restrictions and an ambitious testing and vaccination plan.

Newly implemented restrictions in Ulaanbaatar will last until April 18th and are very similar to what we know from Denmark and other countries.

places. Restaurants, cafes, sports activities, cinemas and other places for large gatherings are completely closed. Food can be delivered via take-away. Markets and shopping centers may only operate at 30% of normal capacity. All traffic in and out of Ulaanbaatar is suspended, except for essential transportation.

By May 1, one million citizens in Ulaanbaatar must be fully vaccinated. That equates to just over 70% of the city’s population. At the same time, a special vaccination program is launched for homeless people, who are obviously particularly vulnerable and at risk of continuing to be sources of infection.

The vaccination program is not only ambitious in cities. The rural population outside of administrative urban areas counts approximately 1.5 million people, and they must be fully vaccinated by July 1.

In addition to the vaccinations used in Denmark, the Russian Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm vaccines are also offered in Mongolia. For example, the leadership of CICED’s partner organizations MAPPSD has embraced Sinopharm. And they’re doing well.

There is hope for the summer.

For organizing Naadam with wrestling, horse racing, archery, and celebrations.

For organizing regional workshops in the project ‘Better School Start – Better School Life’.

Since 2000, when we started focusing on the development of schools and civil society in rural Mongolia, annual regional workshops have been the backbone of experience exchange and further development of the projects.

Typically, representatives from schools and the Mongolian partner’s local branches gather for a 3-4 day workshop. This is a unique opportunity for both new learning and social and professional interaction. The regional workshops have proven to be the annual highlight for hundreds of teachers and other civil society actors.

With 62 chapters, they are now split into 4 regions and one of the schools, with the support of the whole community, hosts the workshop. Experiences from project implementation are shared. New theoretical and practical input is provided for the next phase of the project.

If the vaccination plans hold and the Mongolians get the corona under control again, the summer won’t be too bad. The project has been running at half speed since the start in November 2019, but we’re aiming for full speed when the schools reopen after a good summer 2021.

Photos are from previous regional workshops – 1. group work, 2. break exercise, 3. dining in the green, 4. teaching outdoors, 5. sharing of self-made materials, 6. listen carefully, 7. and what do we mean now, 8. volleyball competition is a regular feature on the second day evening

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