As of Monday, Mongolia has had 213 coronavirus cases, all imported, and zero deaths. Not a single person has been infected inside the country. Many Mongolians attribute this low infection rate to several factors: clean air, and a steady diet of natural, free-range meat and milk. They also believe that generations of constant work, riding horses, herding sheep, as well as surviving dramatic temperature swings, from -60 to 45 degrees Celsius, have made them heartier and more resistant to disease.
Perhaps most importantly, there is the legacy of Chinggis Khaan (or Genghis Khan), which Mongolians believe has kept them safe. A historian, a shaman, a monk, and a medical doctor all referenced Chinggis Khaan while explaining why they believe Mongolia has been so successful in combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Another factor is the Mongolian self-reliance, deriving from the nomadic lifestyle and the conquest of the Mongolian Empire. Chinggis Khaan’s army was very disciplined. And this discipline travels down to us today, said Dr J.Chinburen.
When Genghis Khan drove his massive army and hundreds of thousands of horses across the steppes and deserts, conquering most of the known world, they could not rely on a government or some other force to step in and save them. Shaman Enkh-Ouyn Byambadorj said that “When Western people have a problem, they have to solve it. Mongolians can just live with it. If they have meat, they eat meat. If they have nothing, they do without,”. “In the countryside, there is no doctor, not even for the pregnant women. They just have the baby,” she says. “Mongolians don’t care about problems. Even living and dying does not matter to them.”
For monk Ukhaanzaya Dorjnamnan, every problem in the world is a different type of naga, a mystical serpent. In his estimation, coronavirus is a very powerful naga, but the nagas do not wish to hurt Mongolians, because they live closer to nature. He also believes the land itself has been blessed by the Great Khan. “Chinggis Khaan chose this land for us because it is a good land. And he promised that it would protect us,” he says.
Dr Chinburen Jigjidsuren, a special health adviser to the prime minister, says the government’s clear communication kept the public informed and prevented panic. Chinggis Khaan had developed effective communications systems which allowed him to quickly send his messages from one end of the Empire to the other.
Chinburen believes all the lockdown measures and rules on wearing masks worked because people listened to instructions. “Chinggis Khaan’s army was very disciplined. And this discipline travels down to us today,” he says. “So, when the government gives an order to wear masks or stay at home, the people comply.”
Jack Weatherford, author of ‘Chinggis Khaan and the Making of the Modern World’, wrote that the migration of Mongolians put them in contact with millions of people from different regions, exposing them to a vast array of diseases. Could this have left Mongolians with greater immunity? Dr Chinburen does not think so. “There is no scientific data,” he says, although he sees how the theory is an appealing one. “One fact that supports this Mongolian immunity theory … is that an infected Frenchman came in contact with almost 200 Mongolians and no one caught the disease,” he says, although “maybe that was because of masks”. “But another point is that Inner Mongolia … only had a few clusters of infections,” he says. (source: The South China Morning Post)