The Virus in OECD countries again

Robert Bender March 2021


I last looked at this selection of relatively affluent countries in September and thought it worth revisiting, to see how they have fared in the six months since. As you’ll see, the transition from southern winter (when we had our second wave) to northern winter has had a dramatic impact as most OECD countries are in the northern hemisphere.


Of the 37 countries, 15 are in Western Europe, 11 in Eastern Europe, 5 in the Americas, 4 in Asia and 2 in Oceania (Aust. and NZ). They had collectively reported 12,980,000 cases by 23 Sept, and on 11 March this had grown to 66,337,000, 5.1 times as many. In September the cases were overwhelmingly in USA, but by March this was shifting to Europe as most countries lost control over it in the northern winter. Oceania (us) barely registers on the chart.




The pandemic took off in western Europe quite early and we used to hear dreadful reports of Spain and Italy, while there was little going on in eastern Europe, but this has changed. All east European countries have since had a raging pandemic over-whelm them, so the number of cases is many times what it had been 6 months earlier. Again with the two Oceania countries barely detectable at the far end of the long tail.



Deaths have escalated, particularly in eastern Europe, and the old Czechoslovakia (now split in two) has been particularly hard hit. The Slovak republic now has 183 times as many deaths as had occurred by Sept last year. The northern winter has had a far worse impact in east than in west European countries, which already had bad experiences before Sept.



As the medical establishment has learned more about prevention and treatment of symptomatic sufferers, death rates per 100 cases have generally come down, especially in western Europe. But in several east European countries they have become far worse, especially in the Slovak republic and Greece. Australia shows almost zero improvement, mainly because there are so few new cases and no new deaths – the same experience as Japan and south Korea. But Mexico is struggling to get its death rate down - its performance is far worse than its neighbours USA and Canada.



Several west European countries had terrible death rates in the first few months, when research had not 

demonstrated successful treatment techniques, but they have now brought them far better under control – Italy’s has improved by 8.4%, down from 11.6 deaths per 100 cases to 3.2 deaths. Again, Slovakia, Greece and the Czech republic have suffered worsening death rates.



Deaths per 100,000 population vary enormously from country to country. At present the worst is the Czech republic with 208 (as against Australia’s 3.6) and Belgium at 195. But all of Western Europe’s countries have terrible death rates – even Denmark, the best performer, has 41, 11 times Australia’s rate. Island nations seem particularly favoured, as is shown by Iceland and Japan, but having compliant populations and evidence-driven governments surely makes a very large difference.



All these charts make clear that the Australian government’s decision to halt all long-term migration and all international tourism, have protected Australia from the awful caseload and death rates of the northern hemisphere countries. The trade-off between keeping the economy flourishing and letting medical science determine government policy has kept many thousands of Australians alive and well who otherwise would have died.