Covid – the international pandemic


Have some countries really done so much worse than others?

The Covid pandemic has now been the major international event for longer than the duration of a full-term pregnancy. By now some facts are known and it’s time for a first look back and an overview.

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Let’s start by making one point clear first. Of all countries with reliable and comprehensive statistics, the United States is by far the largest and the one with the largest population. So of course it will show big numbers of cases and casualties in absolute terms. And these absolute figures, without reference to the underlying population, are invariably the only ones reported by the German press. When used to demonstrate how badly the Trump administration[1] allegedly copes with the crisis, this is lying, pure and simple.

For this comparison I have chosen, besides Germany, the US, Britain, and Sweden, that are frequently covered in the German press, and France and New Zealand, which never are. All the diagrams shown here are extracted from Our World in Data . Lets look at the cases first. (Click images to enlarge.)

Entwicklung der Fallzahlen

With the one and single exception of New Zealand all of the countries compared here are more or less on one and the same level. Yes, sometime around day 100, about June, there were significant differences and we all remember the enormous brouhaha spouted about them. The main point is, though, that none of those supposedly superior measures had any durability in spite of their cost, both social and personal. Up to now the full cost of all these measures is smothered in barrowloads of unsecured cash and we’re yet to see their full impact.

The same goes for the number of deaths. Here the similarity is even greater.

Entwicklung der Sterberaten

Where is Sweden and its loudly touted irresponsibility, when you look for it? The one single significant outlier here (besides NZ of course) are the United States in summer. This is concentrated in only a few states, all Democrat, and for an explanation I refer you to the footnote above. Interestingly the highest peak of the second wave is France, about which, with its left leaning president, we never read a single critical word in the German press. So again with the single and significant exception of New Zealand, the only country that actually tried to eliminate the virus and was prepared to close its border, which Germany for purely ideological reasons refuses to do since 2015, not a single one has done better or even differently from any other. From all the vilification of Trump and Johnson and sanctification of Merkel one would expect to find an entirely different picture – and with the simple implement of reverting to absolute numbers TV viewers are.

Let’s complete the picture with two more comparisons. First there is the ratio of tests coming out positive.

This can be read as a proxy for the rate of under-reporting and here too differences are small. Two minor points may be noted. France’s November peak probably was even bigger than shown above and currently Germany is doing visibly worse than Britain – not that you’d ever see a critical word about Merkel or a positive one about Johnson.

Lastly let’s take a look at the case fatality rates.


Here there are differences. America’s Trump is doing as well or better as Germany and Sweden is visibly better than France and Britain. These numbers are somewhat hard to interpret. Yes, they do contain an element of the quality of treatment. But that’s strongly confounded by what you count as “cases”. The more light and asymptomatic cases you overlook, the worse the remaining ones will seem to do. A second important consideration is who your cases are. In Germany it was young and fit skiers and equally young Carnival revelers while Italy, with its larger and much more integrated families, carried it into the older population. Britain has openly admitted the big mistakes made concerning care homes while we’ve not heard anything similar from France. The biggest surprise here seems to be the United States. With its massive outbreaks into just the most vulnerable parts of the community (see footnote), they seem to have been able to save an extraordinary share of them. I’ve yet to see that mentioned anywhere in the press.

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This is quite apart from the other fact, that in the US these things are mostly dealt with at the state level and the federal government has little to do with. Those states doing worst are invariable those governed by Democrats. I shall not go into that here, but Daniel Greenfield has and as always he’s well worth reading.     Zurück