Low testing rates accompanied by high Covid19 rates. Chart by Keith Rankin.
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Analysis by Keith Rankin

Today’s chart shows the per capita level of testing performed in a number of countries. While the highest testing rate shown is Norway, we should note that Iceland has tested over eight percent of its population; too high to show on this chart.

A high level of testing minimises a country’s undercount of Covid19 cases. When the case:test ratio is low, we are assured that the known count is quite close to the truth.

Switzerland is one of the worst-affected countries, but has been able to contain its death rate through a very high rate of testing. France, on the other hand, is in the opposite situation, and may end up much like Spain. Italy has ramped up its testing, and is now getting far fewer cases than France or Spain. Italy still has a way to go, but will probably come out of the emergency in a better state than Spain, France or the United Kingdom. (Yesterday, Sweden had a higher incidence of known new cases than Italy.)

Australia and South Korea are the stars, with very high testing, and test results that are 98 percent negative. We in New Zealand have achieved higher testing rates than many countries, and the similarly low ratio of positive results assures us that we are shutting down the transmission of the disease. It is now looking as though New Zealand will have less than 10 deaths in total, not the 100 that I previously forecast.

We see Sweden and Netherlands sharply at odds with Norway, with Denmark and Finland coming somewhere in between. I think that the decisions of Sweden and Netherlands to put their economies first will reverberate against them, and that New Zealand could have a substantial export-led recovery, in part as a result of some other countries harming their economies by not putting their people first.

The United States is doing marginally better than the United Kingdom, on both testing and on test results.

At the bottom of the chart we see that Iran still has far to go before its Covid19 emergency is under control. Turkey is also very much on the watch list. Either it got Covid19 late, or it was late to discover that it had a substantial outbreak of the disease.

Brazil is a worry. A vast country of over 200 million people, over 25 percent of its tests are coming back positive, and its testing has only just scratched the surface. Is it mainly Brazil’s well-travelled elite who are getting Covid19, or will it spread through the favelas of its larger cities? Let’s hope that limited social mixing will contain Covid19 there. The worry is that people living in the favelas constitute a large part of the people who provide paid services to Brazil’s well-healed.

All the countries above Spain on the chart – though possibly excluding Ireland and Canada which have unacceptably high death statistics – are optimistically turning the corner. Those below New Zealand on the chart – with the possible exception of Finland – still have a long way to go.