“The criticism of the GHS index is that it fails to account for political decisions – speed of response etc – and that made a huge difference,” he said. “Nothing here changes my view.”
The latest report did concede that there were outliers to the analysis – most obviously the US. Despite ranking first in the GHS index, 62 countries had lower comparative mortality ratios than America.
The researchers said this demonstrates that it is not just which tools a country has at their disposal that matters, but also how they deploy them.
The index had a ranking for “risk environment” – an overall measure of a country’s vulnerability to biological threats – but it may not have been given enough weighting in calculating the final results.
For instance, the US ranked 30th in this category of 57 high income countries, while Iceland, Australia and New Zealand, which had some of the lowest excess deaths in the new study, were in the top 20.
“In the US, all kinds of risk environment weaknesses manifested in a disorganised response to Covid … like different strategies in different states, rules which slowed down distribution of testing and other resources, and inconsistent messaging undermined compliance with pandemic control measures” Dr Yassif said. “Even though the US had really strong capacity going in, there were other weaknesses.”
Dr. Oyewale Tomori, a virologist and former president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, added: “This study offers compelling evidence that lack of preparedness tragically led to greater loss of life during the Covid-19 pandemic, and these vulnerabilities will continue to hold populations at risk when new infectious disease threats inevitably emerge in the future.”
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