The figures were downloaded again on 17 Dec, and I have used them to study something different, focusing mainly on case fatality rates: for each 100 people with confirmed cases of the virus, how many have died?
As the medical establishment in each country has developed their experience in dealing with the virus, one would expect the fatality rate would shrink and a larger fraction of sick people would recover.
For the 29 countries of the Americas, this is just what happened for most of them, as the chart shows. For example, in the Bahamas, it fell from 11.5% to 2.1% as their hospitals got control over it. But in 8 of those countries, fatality rates have increased, the worst being Bolivia, Guatemala and Chile. Most of the countries that have failed to bring the rate down are either on the Panama isthmus or the west coast of South America. But two of the worst rates are in Mexico and Ecuador, lower than in May, but in 7 months they have come down only a little.
Among the 43 countries of Europe, all but two have reduced their fatality rates. The standout exception is Russia, where the rate has doubled from 0.9% to 1.8% over those 7 months. Belgium has had very impressive success, reducing their rate from 16.3% in May to only 3.0% in December. But many East European countries have managed to reduce their fatality rates only a little: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Albania.
I also looked at deaths per 100,000 of population, for May and December.
In the Americas, I have divided them into South, North, Panama isthmus and Caribbean islands. 7 South American countries have developed very large death rates, catching up to or overtaking Ecuador, which was hard hit quite early. Only one on the isthmus, Panama, has shot up to a high level, and in the north Mexico has about caught up to USA, where it has been out of control all year. The Caribbean islands have all been protected by their island status, making border controls much easier, just as has happened in Australia, and perhaps having only small populations has helped too, in gaining compliance.
For Europe, I have divided the chart into West and East. It is clear that western Europe was hit by the pandemic earlier than eastern Europe, as their May death rates were far higher. But since May, starting from a very low base, many eastern European countries have caught up to the western death rates as the virus spread eastwards and overwhelmed their hospital systems. Being an island seems to help a bit as Iceland, Cyprus and Malta are at the lower end of the scale. But Europe is a patchwork of small countries, each bordering several others, so containing it has been more than they could manage.
There has been much focus on the very different policy in Sweden, so it is worth looking at how it compares with its fellow Scandinavian countries. Sweden’s death rate per 100,000 people was far worse than the other 3 in May and has become worse still in December. For example, in May the Swedish rate was 8.4 times that of Norway and is now 10.1 times Norway’s, so has become worse in comparison.
One of the discussion topics this week is the problem of accountability by the Victorian and Australian governments for the 900 deaths in Australia, partly attributable to failures of the quarantine program and even more to failures of managing aged care homes. By comparison, if we had made decisions similar to Sweden’s, there would have been 18,800 deaths by now. Would Victorians be even more disposed to hold the government responsible for all those deaths? How will the Swedes evaluate their government’s performance? (given it is so much worse than that of the other Scandinavian countries, not to mention so much worse than ours).