The best and worst countries to be stuck in during Covid-19 – including South Africa

Bloomberg has published its latest Covid Resilience Ranking, a barometer that ranks the largest 53 economies on their success at containing the virus with the least amount of social and economic disruption.

In formulating the ranking, the group considered many datasets, indicators and indexes produced by organisations globally, and applied three fundamental criteria in whittling the list down to the 11 components.

Principally, it looked ta the following:

  • How complete is the data?
  • How current is the data?
  • Who collects the data?

The complete list of criteria and their definitions are explained in more detail below.

Top 10 

In January, New Zealand – with its closed borders, four vaccine deals and near-elimination of the virus locally – holds onto pole position for the third straight month.

Bloomberg noted that top performers like New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan haven’t been hurt by the fact they’ve not yet started vaccinating their populations, as low community transmission and balmy weather helps maintain their Covid edge.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which lead the world in inoculating against Covid-19, have been propelled into the top 15 due to the fast pace of rollouts, with as many as 40 doses given out per 100 people. But their boosts – Israel advanced two places to 15th – were partially offset by surging  infections.

Bottom 10 

At the other end of the scale is Mexico, which at 53rd, is the last of the ranked economies due to record fatalities.

Only marginally better is South Africa (52nd), which has not begun its vaccine programme, has poor access to vaccines, and in recent weeks has reported a high Covid-19 positive test rate.

The country has also been scored poorly because of its harsh lockdown restrictions.

“South Africa, Colombia and the Czech Republic drop into the bottom five as cases jumped and tighter restrictions reduced people’s mobility,” Bloomberg said.

“A new virus strain is driving a surge of infections in South Africa, and uncertainty is growing over whether vaccines can fully protect against new variants.

The magic formula?

The under-performance of some of the world’s most prominent democracies including the US and the UK, in contrast with the success of authoritarian countries like China and Vietnam, has raised questions over whether democratic societies are cut out for tackling pandemics.

Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking tells a different story: democracies have made up the majority of the top 10 since the debut of this ranking in November.

Success in containing Covid-19 with the least disruption appears to rely less on being able to order people into submission, and more on governments fostering a high degree of trust and societal compliance.

When citizens have faith in the authorities and their guidance, lockdowns may not be needed at all, as Japan and South Korea showed through most of the year. Though fierce winter waves are definitely challenging those more open approaches now, Bloomberg said.

Top-ranked New Zealand emphasized communication from the start, with a four-level alert system that provided citizens with a clear picture of how and why the government would act as the outbreak evolved, it said.

Investment in public health infrastructure also matters, Bloomberg’s research noted. Undervalued in many places before 2020, systems for contact tracing, effective testing and health education bolstered the top performers, helping socialize hand-washing and the wearing of face masks.

This has been key to avoiding economically crippling lockdowns, said Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious diseases official.

Social cohesion has been a major differentiating factor in this pandemic, according to Alan Lopez, a laureate professor and director of the University of Melbourne’s global burden of disease group, told Bloomberg.

“If you look at Japanese society, the Scandinavian societies, there’s very little inequality and a lot of discipline in them,” said Lopez. “That would translate into a more cohesive response by the country and that’s why they’re up there at the top.”

Read: UK to introduce strict R30,000 quarantine on passengers from South Africa: report

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The best and worst countries to be stuck in during Covid-19 – including South Africa