NZ, Vietnam top Covid-19 performance ranking; US, UK languish

People wear protective masks to prevent the spread of the virus while riding the metro in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec 23, 2020.
People wear protective masks to prevent the spread of the virus while riding the metro in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec 23, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan rank the top three in a Covid-19 Performance Index of almost 100 countries and territories for their successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Britain and America near the bottom of the pile.

The Lowy Institute said its index published on Thursday (Jan 28) excludes China, where the first cases were identified in December 2019, due to lack of publicly available data.

Others in the top 10 include Thailand, Cyprus, Rwanda, Iceland, Australia, Latvia and Sri Lanka - countries with fewer reported cases and deaths both in aggregate and per capita terms.

In total, 98 countries and territories were evaluated in the 36 weeks that followed their hundredth confirmed case of Covid-19, using data available to Jan 9, 2021.

Fourteen-day rolling averages of new daily figures were calculated for confirmed cases, confirmed cases per million people, confirmed deaths, confirmed deaths per million people, confirmed cases as a proportion of tests, and tests per thousand people, the Lowy Institute said.

The report comes as world coronavirus cases surpass 100 million with the death toll exceeding 2 million.

The United States, with over 25 million confirmed cases, ranked 94 while India, with more than 11 million cases, was 86th. Britain, with the highest number of the deaths in Europe, stood at the 66th spot.

The index showed countries in Asia-Pacific proved the most successful in containing the pandemic as Europe and the United States were "quickly overwhelmed" by the rapid spread of Covid-19.

"Levels of economic development or differences in political systems between countries had less of an impact on outcomes than often assumed or publicised," the Sydney-based Lowy Institute said in its analysis.

"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."

Vietnam, which has used targeted testing and a centralised quarantine programme to successfully contain the coronavirus reported its first locally-transmitted case of Covid-19 for 55 days on Thursday.

International experts have long noted the possibility of the underrepoting of publicly available Covid-19 data, and a Financial Times article in May last year warned that the global death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts.

This is according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries  in March and April 2020 where mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods at that time.

If the same level of under-reporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise by over 100,000 cases, reported FT.

- Additional reporting by Tan Tam Mei