Friday, 14 May 2021

International Covid-19 performance results

There was a Quora post earlier this year which asked "Do you think the United States could pull off a lockdown compared to New Zealand?" (2021). This question made me stop and think for quite a while. While I think that any nation CAN do what New Zealand did, few WILL do what New Zealand did. From what I have seen in the media, it seems to be in general those nations with a similar type of community thinking to New Zealand: Taiwan, Iceland, Denmark, Vietnam, South Korea, China, and Australia.

It is interesting to compare the performance of nations, and some of that work has been done by the Lowy Institute (check the country rankings here (2021), while being mindful of infection rates (check the WorldOMeter data here (2021). The Lowy Institute have identified a number of characteristics, such as geography, political systems, population size, and economic development (2021). While these are all very important, I think the catch-all "political systems" means that their data is missing important detail.

It is those characteristics within that additional detail which allow a society to make relationally-focused decisions: culture, national will, a collective spirit, a leader with vision, having legislative means in place, being focused on people over profit. In many ways I think the issues can be largely clustered to culture and political will. Nations take different approaches is their philosophical approaches: some nations are highly individualistic (such as the USA and the UK) and other nations are highly collaborative (China and India - NB: India's current infection rates appear to be complicated by having 'beaten Covid' and believing their own PR). Nations which lack political cohesion find themselves much slower to take collective action (the USA and the UK), while more cohesive nations can do this quickly (New Zealand, Iceland, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and Denmark).

If we look at the latter four nations of Taiwan, China, Vietnam and Denmark, despite all of them being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases at times, each nation has periodically managed to reduce infections to zero. There are resurgences of infection, but these nations have the systems in place to track, trace, and isolate. They have done their best to keep their people safe despite complex borders, relationships and economic constraints.

Nothing is simple. But the diversity of results we are seeing is both spectacular ...and heart-breaking.



  • Lowy Institute (2021). Country Rankings.
  • Quora (2021). Do you think the United States could pull off a lockdown compared to New Zealand?
  • WorldOMeter (2021). COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

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