Wednesday, January 26

One-year ‘winners and losers’ in Covid’s resilience rankings


For a year now, Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking has tracked the best and worst places to be during the pandemic, combining data ranging from outbreak control to the number of deaths, vaccination campaigns, and progress toward restarting them. travels.

Twelve months of qualifying have made one thing clear: past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure.

Countries have been hampered time and again by the vagaries of the biggest health crisis in a generation, but some have also found ways to reverse devastating situations, whether through science, social cohesion, or simply learning from the past. .

Since its debut last November, the best and worst qualifying results for each month have fluctuated, with the start of vaccines, the emergence of the delta variant and the most recent key reopening moments in the pandemic journey.

Initially, the best performers among the 53 ranked economies were those that implemented strict containment strategies, including quarantines and border curbs. Then the places that were able to implement vaccines the fastest came to the fore, and those that have been able to combine high levels of vaccination with a normalization of social and economic activity now score the highest.

As more potential tipping points loom (lockdowns are returning in some places and the arrival of Covid-19 pills could neutralize the virus in the long run), we got a year of Covid resistance, targeting the most consistent players. , who did best at reverting to normal life and the bottom line: where deaths have been most effectively avoided.

More consistent

The volatile arc of the pandemic meant that no top performers sustained their success throughout the year.

New Zealand and Singapore, which were once number one for blocking the virus and maintaining a level of pre-pandemic normalcy for most of 2020, saw their fortunes plummet as Delta infiltrated their Covid Zero strongholds, prompting further closures and restrictions. The United States, fleetingly number one in June, and Israel, the fastest to throw shots and lift curbs in the first months of 2021, were caught when the virus broke out again during the summer, particularly among the unvaccinated.

The lower echelons of the rankings also fluctuated: countries like Mexico and Brazil ranked lowest until early 2021 when the virus hit their populations, but Latin America has avoided the worst of the delta thanks to vaccination and a high level of natural immunity.

Southeast Asian countries became the worst places to be in the second half of the year as their inoculation releases were delayed, with resurgent outbreaks that left their export-dependent economies reeling.

In the midst of the change, some places turned out to be the most consistent. Most of them never reached No.1 out of 53 ranked economies, but they also did not fall below No.26.

These seven countries – Norway, Denmark, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Canada, South Korea, and Switzerland – are the closest the pandemic has to parking MVPs: whether it’s implementing vaccination, fighting the delta, or reopening the economy, they always scored above average.

Strong health care safety nets and social cohesion are common denominators among the seven qualities that benefited them at all stages of the pandemic. Faith in the government and the people’s willingness to follow the rules helped contain the virus, while the relative wealth of these countries meant they had the purchasing power to acquire the first supplies of vaccines.

At the other extreme, nine countries (Argentina, Iran, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa) have never exceeded the mid-point of the ranking last year. These places have been the most devastated by the pandemic, in terms of infections, and many still struggle with limited access to vaccines.

Progress towards normality

In June, when vaccines proliferated in developed economies and governments began to lift restrictions, the Ranking added two new data indicators to the original 10 to reflect progress toward reopening and normalizing economies: Vaccinated travel routes and Flight capacity.

The launch of vaccines has allowed many countries to resume aspects of pre-pandemic life, with death rates largely deviating from infection curves and Europe, North America and some parts of Asia-Pacific now seek to live with the virus. .

Places that accept that Covid is endemic, like influenza, are less likely to shut down or see people avoid public activities. Over the past year, community mobility, an unconditional indicator of the ranking that tracks levels of movement to offices and commercial spaces compared to a pre-pandemic baseline, has remained relatively stable in Greece, US, UK. and Germany, with all four avoiding weekly activity drops of more than 10% since the end of last year.

Similarly, its flight capacity has steadily recovered and the severity of restrictions, particularly in the US and UK, is at a low level.

While all of these places continue to experience waves of infection and some, such as the US, continue to experience significant deaths, data shows that in these countries people are no longer willing to endure interruptions in their daily lives and have lost greatly measure the fear of the virus. For these economies, the pandemic is receding, although winter will be a test.

At the other end of the spectrum, mobility levels in places like Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, Chile and Israel have dropped by 10% or more in the past four months, as the resurgence of the virus prompted restrictions on movements of people. New Zealand has experienced six such downturns in the past 12 months, reflecting a stop-start curb cycle that is taking an ever-increasing price.

While the ongoing lockdowns have been associated with the “Covid Zero” approach that aims to eliminate the spread of the virus, mainland China and Hong Kong, the only places in the world still sticking to the strategy, have not seen the numbers drop. national activity levels by more than 10% since early 2021. This does not reflect international travel, which has been strictly restricted in both places, and in the case of China reflects its vast scale: blockades in some part of the country to remove delta outbreaks only occasionally rise to the point where activity at the national level suffers.

Preventing death

The lasting legacy of Covid-19 is the more than 5 million lives that have been lost during the course of the pandemic, a toll that is generally considered to be likely undercounted. The hit has been unevenly distributed around the world and has been largely related to the effectiveness of containment strategies in the first year of the pandemic before vaccines were available.

Limited deaths has been the most prominent success story of the Covid Zero approach, although the flip side has been a much slower reopening, especially when it comes to travel.

On a per capita basis, China has the lowest Covid mortality of the 53 places ranked, with just three deaths per million people.

New Zealand, which still has a closed border, although it is getting closer to opening, ranks second, with just eight deaths per million. Other places that successfully removed and kept Covid out in the first year, such as Taiwan, South Korea and Australia, have seen fewer than 100 deaths per million people.

At the other extreme, Peru has the worst death toll, with 6,093 Covid deaths per million people. The United States, which was unsuccessful in containment, and European nations have seen deaths of around 2,000 people per million.

The Northern Hemisphere winter may reorganize the Ranking leaderboard again as countries face the first cold season with vaccines and the most transmissible delta. European nations such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are already experiencing new waves and some have imposed new lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus. We’ll see how that has affected the region’s rankings performance in the November issue, due out next week.

Right now, many developed countries are racing to get booster shots in the arms and to vaccinate children, the last big group to get vaccinated. Will these actions be enough to maintain the world’s slow exit from the pandemic? Or do we see a rollback to restrictions as new waves, and the apocalyptic scenario: more virulent variants, force a rollback?

© 2021 Bloomberg


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