When it came to tackling the pandemic, Western countries struggled to contain the virus while developing nations fared better than their richer counterparts.
More than a year since the Covid-19 pandemic began, a study has found that the performance of developed and developing countries in managing the virus tended to converge over time.
New Zealand and Vietnam were ranked first and second respectively. Both countries have been widely hailed as success stories for their effective and swift action in containing the virus.
Vietnam has seen only 1,553 infections and 35 deaths since the pandemic began, a remarkable feat when worldwide cases have passed the 100 million mark. New Zealand similarly has had only 2,299 infections and only 24 deaths.
The report by the Lowy Institute, an Australian neo-liberal and right-wing think tank, is one of the first to compare how different political systems fared and whether economic indicators were a factor in how countries responded to the virus.
When the coronavirus was first discovered in China, countries in the Asia-Pacific region, on average, proved to be the “most successful at containing the pandemic” the report found.
In contrast, Europe and the US have struggled resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
The US was ranked 94 out of the 98 countries included in the performance index, nestled between Bolivia and Iran. The US has seen the highest death rate in the world with almost half a million dead and more than 26 million infections.
While Europe became increasingly better at containing the virus as the pandemic wore on, the second winter wave has seen the continent once again fall in the ranking as countries begin to struggle yet again.
“Meanwhile, the spread of the pandemic only accelerated in much of the Americas (North and South), making it the worst affected continent globally,” the report found.
The Lowy Institute also compared how different political systems have dealt with the ensuing problems that the pandemic has brought about.
Stay at home orders, lockdowns and border closures were just some of the low-tech measures that most countries have taken.
Political systems that don’t have multiparty elections, which the report calls “authoritarian”, performed much better at the outset of the pandemic while democratic systems struggled to react to the fast-moving pace of Covid19.
As the virus spread, the performance of democratic systems improved, while those of authoritarian systems tended to converge.
“On average, countries with authoritarian models had no prolonged advantage in suppressing the virus,” said the report. The report, however, likely only came to this conclusion by excluding China from the data.
The Lowy Institute is well known for its aggressive posture towards China and even included Taiwan as a country in the report, which is not internationally recognised and seen by Beijing as a renegade province.
Citing insufficient data, the report could not analyse how China performed during the pandemic. This is even as the IMF and the World Bank have cited the country as an economic success story in weathering the Covid19 problem.
The report, which was conducted by one of Australia's leading foreign policy and democracy supporting think tanks, went on to add, “Indeed, despite a difficult start and some notable exceptions, including the United States and the United Kingdom, democracies found marginally more success than other forms of government in their handling of the pandemic over the examined period.”
“By contrast, many hybrid regimes, such as Ukraine and Bolivia, appeared least able to meet the challenge,” the report added.
The report also found that while richer and more developed countries had more resources to tackle Covid-19, and for much of the crisis performed better, this advantage did not last.
“More surprising is that many developing countries were able to cope with the initial outbreak of the pandemic and that advanced economies, as a grouping, lost their lead by the end of 2020.”
“The relatively ‘low-tech’ nature of the health measures used to mitigate the spread of the virus to date, including large-scale lockdowns, may have created a more level playing field between developed and developing countries in the management of COVID-19,” the report concluded.