Coronavirus. Rich countries vie for worst outcomes per head of population

Following on from yesterday’s post on the virus’s tour of wealthy countries and tax havens – which happen also to be many of the world’s proportionally most-infected countries – here’s the same data taking deaths into account.

I’ve divided the number of positive tests per head by the number of Covid-attributed deaths per head. It should show how well or badly countries are doing at minimising fatalities relative to the scale of their outbreak.

All things being equal, you’d expect a country like the UK to be among the best-off countries. It is 30th out of 40 for infections with 760 per million, yesterday: far lower than Spain’s 2,923 or Iceland’s 4,577.

But despite that, and the UK’s highly experienced and epidemic-hardened NHS, which deals with tens of thousands of serious flu cases every year, Britain is fourth-worst on deaths. We’re behind only Spain and two tiny pirate principalities, Sint Maarten and San Marino.

We’re all out of proportion. But we’re not alone. Most of the eight nations with IMF voting rights that are in the Coronavirus Cases Top 40 also rank much worse on death stats than they do on infections.

Meanwhile, little Iceland is doing vastly better on deaths than the big boys despite having a far-higher rate of positive tests.

This raises a couple of obvious questions.

Why have so many more people allegedly died with Covid, proportionally, in the UK and wealthy European countries compared with titchy Caribbean islands?

And what is a place like Iceland doing that we’re not?

Iceland took proportionate and sensible precautions to manage the virus. As far as I can see, it doesn’t have a health minister with an obsession with sunbathers, joggers and Premier League football stars.

Iceland moved early to quarantine arrivals from infected places. And it is currently second only to its nearish neighbours, the Faroes, in the number of coronavirus tests carried out per head of population.

That allows for widespread contact tracing, isolation of vulnerable contacts of known cases and targeting of precautions to specific locations.

Consequently, Icelanders have not been subject to a blanket lockdown, although gatherings of more than 20 are banned and swimming pools, museums, bars and close-proximity occupations like hairdressing are closed.

Significantly, the country’s primary and preschools are still open in line with proven knowledge that young children, who are at no risk from Covid-19, play a key role in spreading acquired immunity.

But then Iceland isn’t a member of any of the “rich country” clubs. It’s got no reason to join them in flailing around with lockdowns or fining people for misuse of fresh air and sunshine.

Come to that, neither do the elite nations. So why are we doing it?

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