The UK, which ranks better than India at 66, and the US, whose performance is among the worst five, rank poorly too, while China was not included in the study. Brazil ranks last.
New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan rank the top three for their successful handling of the pandemic, while Thailand, Cyprus, Rwanda, Iceland, Australia, Latvia and Sri Lanka also feature among the top 10.
To gauge the relative performance of countries at different points in the pandemic, this institute tracked six measures: Confirmed cases, deaths, cases per million, deaths per million, cases as a proportion of tests and tests per thousand.
“The period examined spans 36 weeks that followed each country’s hundredth confirmed case, using data available up to January 9, 2021. Fourteen-day rolling averages of new daily figures were calculated for the six indicators,” the institute said.
An average across those indicators was then calculated for individual countries in each period and normalised to produce a score from 0 (worst performing) to 100 (best performing).
Asia Pacific Best, Americas Worst
At 24.3, India’s average was lower than the region it belongs to — Asia-Pacific — which scored 58.2 and ranked best in the region-wise evaluation, while countries in the Americas ranked worst.
“Although the outbreak started in China, countries in the Asia–Pacific, on average, proved the most successful at containing the pandemic. By contrast, rapid spread of Covid-19 along the main arteries of globalisation quickly overwhelmed Europe (first) and the US,” the institute said.
However, Europe also registered the greatest improvement over time of any region — with most countries there at one point exceeding the average performance of countries in the Asia–Pacific — before succumbing to a second, more severe, wave of the pandemic in the final months of 2020.
Democracies Pip Authoritarian Regimes
Going by the political regimes, democracies outperformed authoritarian regimes while Hybrids rank the worst.
“The tools to contain the spread — stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and border closures — have been common to most countries…Despite initial differences, performances of all regime types converged over time. On average, countries with authoritarian models had no prolonged advantage in suppressing the virus,” the institute said.
People & Money
However, the study finds that certain structural factors appear to be more closely associated with positive outcomes. For example, countries with populations of fewer than 10 million people proved more agile than the majority of their larger counterparts in handling the health emergency for most of 2020,” it added.
The difference in average scores between small and large countries was 24.8 points. On the other hand, advanced economies, as expected, outperformed developing economies with more than 10 points difference.
Impact On Outcome
The institute said, levels of economic development or differences in political systems between countries had less of an impact on outcomes than often assumed or publicised. It added that no single type of country emerged the unanimous winner in the period examined — variations between individual countries were far more substantial than those between broad categories of countries. Nor did a single theory convincingly explain the differences observed in national outcomes, despite some health measures proving far more effective than others.
“There may be some truth in the argument put forward by the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama that the dividing line in effective crisis response has not been regime type, ‘but whether citizens trust their leaders, and whether those leaders preside over a competent and effective state’. In general, countries with smaller populations, cohesive societies, and capable institutions have a comparative advantage in dealing with a global crisis such as a pandemic,” the institute noted.
Systemic factors alone — a society’s regional provenance, political system, economic development, or size — cannot account fully for the differences observed in global crisis responses, the analysis found.
The results point to some of the strengths and vulnerabilities stemming from the way different countries are set up to deal with a public policy challenge of this scale. But policy choices and political circumstances of the day appear to be just as important in shaping national responses to the pandemic.