July 28, 2021

The global Covid performance index has arrived and France is ranked …

The global Covid performance index has arrived and France is ranked ...

©Ludovic MARIN / AFP / POOL

Containing the epidemic

The Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, published a study in which the impact and consequences of geography, political systems, population and economy are studied in managing the health crisis. France finds itself very poorly classified.

Atlantico.fr: The Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, published a study in which it studies the impact of geography, political systems, population and economy in managing the health crisis. Are there structural factors that explain why some countries have managed the crisis better than others? Are we in a position to draw up a typical profile of the more successful countries?

Charles Come back: The covid-19 respiratory viral pandemic has been running for over a year and has created a whole new global situation in which all the countries of the world are facing roughly the same challenges at around the same time. both in terms of health but also in the socio-economic field.

The possible historical point of comparison that comes to mind concerns the influenza pandemic of 1918 (“Spanish flu”) but with two major differences: its appearance after four years of world war, but also the contemporary ease of comparing national data. and regional permanently. The elements of comparison are now just a mouse click on his computer or a finger pressure on the touch screen of his laptop: data from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, ourworldindata or covidtracker site… And there is in addition to the work of international organizations on the economic consequences of the pandemic, for example the IMF’s world economic outlook or the OECD’s economic outlook.

The material ease of comparisons and the overall gravity of the situation make these comparisons inevitable for analysts and journalists who easily have immense informational material. For France, we can note the role played by Atlantico in drawing the attention of the general public and public authorities to practices abroad through multiple contributions and for example mine since March 2020.

After the raw data, there are therefore various analyzes and explanations of the relative performances of the different countries. One of my contributions Atlantico thus presented the work of Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam of MIT who classified the countries in “green zones” or “red zones” by opposing the strategies of partial control of the contamination aiming mainly to avoid its explosion in strategies of total eradication of the virus, infinitely less disruptive according to him.

The Lowy Institute is now presenting a new covid-19 scoring from 98 countries. For the record, this institute is an Australian thinktank named after Frank Lowy, an affluent businessman who co-founded Wesfield, the shopping center management company bought a few years ago by Unibail Rodamco.

Their study, carried out by Hervé Lemahieu and Alyssa Leng, classifies countries according to covid health performance (cases, deaths and covid tests in absolute values ​​and reported to the population). It is not a holistic approach to success that would include not only covid aspects but also socio-economic aspects or comprehensive public health consequences.

The interesting aspect of this work concerns its analysis of different factors that can impact the covid performance of the 98 benchmark countries: location in a region of the world, political systems, population size, economic development, in order to determine if there is significant variations between different countries in dealing with the pandemic.

The main conclusions are as follows:

  • greater efficiency of the Asia-Pacific zone compared to Europe but even more so the American continent (North and South), the most affected in the world;
  • greater agility of small countries (less than 10 million inhabitants), in particular because the internal borders of countries with a larger population are often more open and porous than international borders, which may have facilitated the spread of viruses within these countries;
  • near competitive disadvantage constituted by a high level of economic development, especially in the upstream phase of the pandemic where many governments in developing countries had more time and often a greater sense of urgency to put in place preventive measures after the extent and gravity of the global crisis were known;
  • taking into account the nature of political regimes and the cohesive character of society in the country in question.

The Lowy Institute has established a performance index to rank countries according to their health outcomes. France finds itself ranked 73th on 98, how to explain this so low place?

I suggest that you first look at the top 10 of the Lowy Institute. We note the presence of multiple island countries (New Zealand, Taiwan, Cyprus, Iceland, Australia, Ski Lanka) and insularity therefore seems to have constituted an important advantage in controlling the pandemic. We also note the good ranking of certain African countries (Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia, Mozambique, Malawi).

Regarding the countries regularly watched, we see that South Korea is ranked 20th, Japan 45th, Germany 55th, the United Kingdom 66th, France 73th, Russia 76th, PInde 86th (positioning not completely intuitive for these two countries in view of the mortality data), the USA 94th, Brazil 98th and last.

According to the Lowy Institute, France is therefore at the start of the last quarter, in a way the best of not good things. If we apply the Institute’s analysis grid, this situation would be linked to:

  • a large population;
  • geographic positioning in Europe, a heavily affected area;
  • a lack of advantage linked to its level of economic development;
  • the limits of national cohesion, France remaining “the society of mistrust” described in 2007 by Pierre Cahuc and Yann Algan.

It has often been heard that authoritarian regimes are better able to enforce the necessary restrictive measures. Are they really more efficient than democracies?

The Lowy Institute study classifies the 98 countries in its panel between 3 types of regimes: authoritarian, democratic and “hybrid”. They do not distinguish any advantage over time from for authoritarian regimes although there may have been a small advantage at the start of the pandemic. Note that the Lowy panel does not include China “due to a lack of publicly available data on the tests”, while it is both the initial focus of the pandemic, the 2th economy and 2th population of the world.

Beyond this question of the political regime, the Lowy Institute highlights the importance of cohesive societies and competent institutions to effectively face such a crisis. The authors thus give some credit to American political scientist Francis Fukuyama that the dividing line in terms of efficiency is not the type of regime, but the fact that the citizens of the countries in question trust their leaders and that these leaders are at the head of a competent and efficient state.

The study deconstructs the cliché of cultural essentialism. According to the researchers, there was no “Western experiment” and the United States would be closer to Brazil than to the European Union …

As indicated above, the study offers a multifactorial explanation of the relative performance of the 98 countries in the panel and concludes with the following characteristics for the countries with good relative performance:

  • countries with a small population (less than 10 million inhabitants);
  • solidity, credibility and competence of the public authorities;
  • good level of national cohesion;
  • superiority of the Asia-Pacific zone and secondarily of Africa over Europe and even more so the whole of the American continent.

By definition such an approach is not essentialist. The fact remains that cultural characteristics, for example the relation to risk and death, or historical ones must be considered with attention. My contribution on Asia with Sophie Boisseau du Rocher from IFRI explained, for example, the impact of recent pandemics (SARS, MERS) on the reactivity and therefore the superior performance of the developed countries of South-East Asia compared to the rest of OECD countries.

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