COVID-19 Regional Safety Assessment
The culture of North America in general, and the United States especially, is infused with a libertarian ethos and the population does not respond favourably to authoritarian measures such as lockdowns and mandatory mask-wearing, however temporary and efficacious they are acknowledged to be. This, coupled with political decentralisation of the US and Canada, is certain to have some bearing on the extent to which national population behaviour can be controlled by the central government. Consequently, in the USA the situation is unstable due to the popular feeling that the government is abusing their rights, even giving rise to protests on the streets. Canada is markedly more stable, potentially due to a combination of familiarity with similar problems e.g. some experience in dealing with previous diseases like SARS, and a slightly less stringently libertarian value system. The geographical factor also makes a significant difference to the spread of the infection across the two countries, as in the USA more affected is the South with several hotspots like LA and New York, and Northern states that are closer to Canada have a much lower number of total cases.
Statistics on the US and Canada illustrate two very different scenarios. These two neighboring countries initially had similar patterns of irregular spikes but with Canada lagging several days behind the US. The main divergence began in March, though not clearly visible at that time. With their numbers having remained similarly low and insignificant until March, it only took a few days for daily growth in the United States to approach 50%, so that in less than a week the total the number of cases was 5 times greater than in Canada, and 5 days after that it was 10 times greater. Later, by the end of March, the growth rates leveled off, but developments thus far would have decisive effects on what was to come. As a result, by the end of March, the excess of cases in the United States in relation to Canada was already 20 times, and remained until the beginning of summer. At the same time, although during April and May the indicators of daily growth in both countries decreased and became equal (approximately 1-2%), due to the cumulative effects of previous months, by June 1, when the scale of the pandemic in Canada was characterized by tens of thousands of cases, in the USA it was already hundreds of thousands, approaching 2 million. Throughout the summer, Canada managed to keep the growth of new cases daily at a threshold below 0.5% (on average 0.4% since June 1), while in the United States this indicator was stable at about 1%. This has ultimately led to two very different situations today. The United States is in first place in the world in terms of the number of cases, and the seemingly stabilized and not so significant growth in relative parameters gives a colossal negative effect in absolute terms, while in Canada, the pandemic is creeping steadily. Thus, a short-term loss of control over the situation early on has led to much more serious consequences much later - the total number of cases on Aug, 16 in the United States was 45 times more than in Canada, and the number of cases per 1 million - 5.13 times. The only pronounced positive effect in the United States is the lower death rates from COVID-19.
South and Central America is now the most affected region - it accounts for 28.4% of total cases. Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Chile are 5 countries from this region which are among the 10 countries and territories with the largest number of cases worldwide, with Brazil in 2nd place. These states make up 85% of total cases in South and Central America, and together with Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Panama - 95%, with more than a half (54%) related to Brazil. From July, 1 to Aug, 16 the leap forward in Colombia and Argentina is a separate concern. Even sharper increases are in Costa Rica and Paraguay, though these nations have fewer total cases in absolute numbers and per 1 million of population. In the same period only Chile has achieved a decline in the number of new cases compared to the previous period (15 May - 30 June). At the same time, the number of total cases per 1 million people there is even higher than in Brazil. Mexico’s figures for the ratio of fatal cases (in %) are 4 times more than the average for the region and about 3 times more than worldwide.
Uruguay’s success in preventing the spread of the virus is unique for the continent and deserves a separate mention from the rest of the South and Central American states. It is the only country from the region, included in the list of recommendations for lifting the travel restrictions given by the European Commission to its member states. It is a high degree of social responsibility of its citizens and authorities, that impedes the spread of pandemic. A national health emergency, with associated measures, was declared after the first four deaths, which lead to a much lower number of total incidents in absolute measures and per 1 million of population, as well as to a more or less low level of mortality, despite the fact that 15% of people in Uruguay are 65 years of age and above. This once again testifies to the crucial difference an early response can make, which is described in the Canada and USA case studies. The one yet more significant hypothesis is that it may not be the healthcare system that defines the success of fighting with COVID-19, but political trust, public cohesion and institutional environment - social equality, high protection and low rates of poverty, where Uruguay leads together with Chile. The latter had not managed to prevent the pandemic, but already achieved positive results in reducing its spread after some time.