Home >Science >health >Why covid-19 death rates vary by country

Countries that enforced stricter covid-19 containment policies witnessed lower death rates in the initial phase of the pandemic, a study says. The study, a working paper published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, also looked at death rates in terms of local climates and elderly demographics.

In the study, Yothin Jinjarak of Victoria University of Wellington, and others, used daily data until 28 April to report that a country with a stringency index 10 units higher than the average had 14% lower death rates two weeks into the restrictions. The gap subsequently reduces. By the end of the third week, the mortality growth was lower by 11%.

The stringency index is on a scale of zero to 100—a higher figure means the country had a more restrictive lockdown in response to the pandemic.

The authors also find that policy strictness was more effective in lowering mortality growth rates in countries more vulnerable to the pandemic. For instance, death rates slowed down faster in countries with higher proportions of the elderly. Similarly, countries with colder temperatures from January to April saw sharper declines in mortality growth rates associated with stricter containment measures.

The authors also find that earlier enforcement of containment measures led to lower mortality rates at the peak of the death curve. It also reduced the time taken to reach the first local peak.

Interestingly, the authors also find that more vulnerable countries, such as those with greater elderly populations, higher population density and bigger shares of vulnerable jobs, tend to see a reduction in daily deaths sooner.

This result seems counter-intuitive, but is consistent with the finding that countries exhibiting these risk factors also had more effective restrictions, the authors point out.

Also read: Accounting for global covid-19 diffusion patterns, January-April 2020.

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