Handling Covid-19: Which Countries Have Done the Best — and Which Have Done the Worst?

Weekly coronavirus dashboard courtesy of Johns Hopkins CSSE
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In Bloomberg’s monthly ‘Covid Resilience Ranking,’ Malaysia’s December position improved seven places from November’s.

Each month, Bloomberg crunches the numbers to get a snapshot of where the virus is being handled the most effectively with the least social and economic disruption.

According to Bloomberg’s latest report (published on December 21) looking at its Covid Resilience Ranking, New Zealand – with its closed borders, vaccine deals, and elimination of the virus in the community – remains in the top spot, with Taiwan now edging into second place as the onset of cold weather challenges previously top-ranked countries like Japan and South Korea.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a Covid press conference in March 2020, a day before the country’s lockdown | Image Credit: Daily Sabah

Bloomberg has noted that the ferocity of the winter surge is seriously testing various countries’ resolve of trying to tame Covid-19 without locking down. Japan (ranked no. 2 in November), Korea, and Sweden have all fallen in the December ranking as people’s migration indoors fuels and accelerates the virus’s spread, putting pressure on their long-standing strategies of suppressing the outbreak with minimal societal disruption. Widely praised for its early focus on testing and cutting-edge contact tracing, South Korea is now trying to avoid imposing its toughest curbs yet. Malaysia, too, is walking a challenging tightrope in balancing the needs of the people and the country’s economy amid a surge that’s significantly worse than that experienced in March and April.

In the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking, the top 10 countries for December:

  1. New Zealand
  2. Taiwan
  3. Australia
  4. Norway
  5. Singapore
  6. Finland
  7. Japan
  8. South Korea
  9. China
  10. Denmark

You may notice a theme here: All of the top 10 countries, with regard to managing the pandemic successfully, are either Asia-Pacific or Nordic countries.

Despite its remarkable performance, New Zealand still sees most of its citizens adhering to SOPs, as these holiday shoppers in Auckland show | Image Credit: Bloomberg

Malaysia’s Covid Resilience Ranking improved significantly from November, where it was no. 29 of 53. December’s ranking saw a +7 change, improving to no. 22 in the list.

The methodology takes into account a number of factors, including case fatality rate, cases per 100,000 population, deaths per 1 million, and positive test rate (all looked at during a one-month period). Additionally, each country’s access to Covid vaccines, which are just starting to be rolled out, factors into the resilience ranking, as well.

Bloomberg’s 10 key metrics for determining a country’s Covid Resilience Ranking | Courtesy of Bloomberg

According to Bloomberg, the Ranking scores economies of more than $200 billion on 10 key metrics: from growth in virus cases to the overall mortality rate and testing capabilities. The capacity of the local healthcare system, the impact of virus-related restrictions like lockdowns on the economy, and freedom of movement are also taken into account.

You can read more about the methodology behind the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking here.

To see the full list in sort-to-click format, head to the main Bloomberg article

Apart from Malaysia’s +7 performance from a month ago, here are some other notable gains over the past month:

  • Australia and Singapore move up into the top five as people largely resumed normal activity after outbreaks were contained, though both places – which are pursuing virus-elimination style strategies – are now racing to deal with potential new flareups
  • France jumps 11 spots after cases dropped markedly and its lockdown was lifted on Dec. 15, though President Emmanuel Macron’s infection showed local transmission is yet to be contained
  • Iraq, Nigeria, and the Philippines move up 13, 11, and 11 rungs respectively as lockdown restrictions were eased and people resumed social and business activity
  • Canada tops the Access to Covid Vaccines indicator with orders enough to cover five times its 38 million-strong population, but a resurgent outbreak has erased this edge, and its overall position is elevated by just two spots

The poor performance of some of the world’s most prominent democracies, including the US, the UK, and India, when contrasted with the success of authoritarian countries like China and Vietnam, has naturally fuelled questions over whether or not open, democratic societies are cut out for managing wide-scale outbreaks or global pandemics.

Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, however, tells a different story: Democracies absolutely dominate the top 10 in December’s ranking, something that was also the case in November.

It would appear that success in containing Covid-19 with the least disruption to business and society relies less on being able to simply order people into submission and more on leaders and governments engendering and fostering a high degree of trust in their actions and decision-making, along with a healthy rate of voluntary societal compliance with SOPs.

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