The augmented COVID Resilience Ranking Report ranks the US number one due to a sparkling vaccination-driven recovery from having been in rather dire straits.
In its latest report, financial information services company Bloomberg, has attempted to identify the path to and progress towards normalisation after the world’s devastating 18-month tryst with the pandemic. To this end, it has added two new tracking measures to its monthly COVID Resilience Ranking Reports.
As an unprecedented global vaccination drive gathers momentum, the augmented report, tracks ‘Reopening Progress’ by monitoring the ease of travelling to and from a given country coupled with recovery for the aviation sector. In countries like the US and UK, masks are coming off and borders are re-opening, where earlier sole focus was on controlling infections and mitigation of its ill-effects. Having said that, the latest Resilience Ranking Report retains traditional parameters – that record positive cases, mortality rates, freedom of movement and economic growth – to deliver a holistic update.
The US followed by New Zealand, a clutch of European nations, Israel, Egypt, and Mexico come out on top of 53 major countries surveyed in the latest Bloomberg Report. The US is especially remarkable, since more than half its population has received mRNA vaccines, which Bloomberg claims are more effective than conventional vaccines. Both infections and mortalities are clearly on the wane. What is more, a USD 1.9 trillion economic stimulus package is set to jumpstart the economy even as growing consumer confidence revives both inbound and outbound tourism. This scenario is especially heartening considering that the US had a dismal record not too long ago. It has recorded 6,00,000 deaths due to COVID, the highest in the world. Indeed, most European countries registered deaths more than 1,400 per million population, whereas the developing world has corresponding figures of about 200-600 deaths per million population.
Asia-Pacific countries Australia, Singapore, China, and Hong Kong have fared well in terms of managing the pandemic – both in terms of infections and mortality rates. But how they have gone about achieving these laudable outcomes is also paradoxically responsible for a slow pace of normalisation. These countries have tended to impose stringent lockdowns, border closures, travel restrictions and lengthy quarantine periods as soon as fresh cases are detected. The result is a cyclical loop that precludes re-opening and accelerated vaccination. Australia has vaccinated just 15 per cent of its population so far. Moreover, air travel has been hit in almost all these countries, except for China which can rely on a strong domestic aviation sector, while its external borders remain largely closed.
New Zealand and, to some extent, Japan and South Korea, remain exceptions to the trend of Asia-Pacific countries imposing stringent lockdowns. Through proactive communication, these countries have developed comprehensive systems for contact tracing, effective testing, and health education, which have been successful at nipping infection outbreaks in the bud. In any case, hand-sanitisation and the wearing of face masks were voluntary choices exercised by their citizens. But their borders continue to be largely closed and the pace of vaccination is slow.
Countries like India, Malaysia, Philippines, and Argentina rank at the bottom of the list. This is largely due to higher instances of infection and mortality combined with a relatively slower pace of vaccination. This is mainly the result of an economic disparity-driven shortage of vaccines, while the developed world is seen to have hoarded them.
Not a done deal, says report
Re-opening gains achieved by countries ranked at the top of the report are not irreversible. Both the UK and Israel had to slowdown normalisation plans after a spike in cases and mortalities from the Delta variant. In developed countries, the apprehension remains those dangerous mutations might affect not just unvaccinated people, but even those already vaccinated. The argument is that the greater the number of unvaccinated people in developing countries, the stronger the possibility of the virus mutating and spreading across borders. It is with this context, that G7 countries and China along with the World Health Organisation (WHO) are attempting to accelerate vaccination in countries that haven’t managed to do so. But these efforts are unlikely to bridge the huge demand gap in a hurry. A major test for the vaccination-driven euphoria will be the upcoming winter in the northern hemisphere. If there aren’t any spikes in infections or mortalities during that season, the current phase of normalisation would have acquired a more permanent character.