Which countries have performed the worst against the coronavirus?

a boat sails in front of the skyline of Doha, Qatar, one of the worst coronavirus countries in the world
Photo via Christine und Hagen Graf/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, roughly 110 million cases and more than 2.44 million deaths have been reported just 11 months later. Some countries are obviously faring better than others in containing the virus—however, since early on, the U.S. has been leading the globe in both cases and deaths. But even the U.S. isn’t among the worst coronavirus countries when taking other statistics into consideration.

Obviously, there are a number of factors to look at here, such as testing discrepancies causing the number of cases and deaths to possibly be understated in some countries. It also makes sense that larger countries would tend to have higher numbers. Additionally, countries that have larger aging populations may be hit harder by COVID-19 due to the fact that older people succumb to the disease much more easily.

When examining the data, it helps to look at not just the total number of cases and deaths, but those numbers per 100,000 people in a country’s given population. While the U.S. has surpassed 500,000 COVID deaths, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the absolute worst in the world when it comes to other statistics.

Johns Hopkins University publishes a running, live-updated tally of cases and deaths for most countries in the world. Cases have been reported on every continent, even Antarctica as of December 2020. There are also about 30 countries that have effectively “beaten” the virus.

A new variant of the virus was making the world nervous in early January, even though two of the coronavirus vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, apparently will still work against those variants (and all five vaccines in circulation around the globe drastically reduced deaths). It’s still not clear whether somebody who has already had the coronavirus can be reinfected by a variant.

By late January, Mexico had become one of the deadlier countries in the world, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had tested positive. Ten months into the pandemic, Ukraine was also badly struggling, though it wasn’t among the worst of the worst, and South Africa continued to struggle with the variant that originated in that country.

Meanwhile, Native Americans had been dying from COVID-19 at a rate nearly twice as high as those of white Americans.

The figures below are based on data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Again, it’s worth pointing out that the data is collected from many sources, some of which conflict. There are also significant differences in the ways that individual countries test for the virus and in the reporting of cases and deaths.

Here are some of the worst performing coronavirus countries, as of Feb. 24.

Highest reported cases (in millions)

  1. United States 28.2
  2. India 11
  3. Brazil 10.2
  4. United Kingdom 4.1
  5. Russia 4.1
  6. France 3.6
  7. Spain 3.1
  8. Italy 2.8
  9. Turkey 2.6
  10. Germany 2.4

Highest reported cases per 100,000 people

  1. Andorra 13,921
  2. Gibraltar 12,563
  3. Montenegro 11,729
  4. Czech Republic 11,100
  5. San Marino 10,449
  6. Slovenia 8,904
  7. Luxembourg 8,768
  8. United States 8,610
  9. Israel 8,412
  10. Panama 7,955

Highest reported deaths

  1. United States 502,000
  2. Brazil 248,000
  3. Mexico 181,000
  4. India 156,000
  5. United Kingdom 121,000
  6. Italy 96,000
  7. France 84,000
  8. Russia 83,000
  9. Spain 68,000
  10. Germany 68,000

Highest reported deaths per 100,000 people

  1. Gibraltar 270
  2. San Marino 216
  3. Belgium 191
  4. Czech Republic 184
  5. United Kingdom 182
  6. Slovenia 182
  7. Italy 160
  8. Portugal 157
  9. Montenegro 156
  10. United States 153

Even though the U.S. doesn’t have the worst statistics in some of those categories, participants in a 13-country study completed by Pew Research says the U.S. has handled the coronavirus pandemic terribly and that their confidence in the country and President Trump is at an all-time low. It will be interesting to see if President Joe Biden can help raise that confidence.

Read more on traveling during the pandemic:

Sources: CNN, The Guardian, New York Times, Johns Hopkins

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