Analysis by Keith Rankin.
The first chart shows all countries and territories. The little places – many islands (ie with natural moats) – get their chance to compete with the big ‘guys’. There has never been evidence that islands are somehow safer from Covid19 than countries with land borders. We may note that the first thirteen countries/territories charted are mostly islands; even most of Denmark’s people live on islands such as Zealand. Six of the remaining 33 places on the chart are also islands.
Two stories about these little places. First, it’s “déjà vu all over again” (to cite a song sung by John Fogerty). The rich little ‘tax haven’ territories which so strongly featured in March 2020 are back, and not for their first rerun. The second story is that the Caribbean region is back, so soon after it last strongly featured towards the end of the northern hemisphere summer. Relating to “déjà vu”, New York and its neighbours are Omicron-central within the USA (as they were initially the covid epicentre in the US); though watch Florida.
Of the countries in this chart, the only Omicron-significant places (above 20% Omicron) are Eswatini, Norway, the British Isles, and United States; although information is not available for the little places. (For the period from 14 to 22 December, USA has 25% Omicron, according to ourworldindata.org).
The second chart shows 34 countries with populations above 500,000. We note a number of southern African countries: Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa. These are all Omicron-dominant.
The other feature – of both charts combined – is that all five Nordic countries are present; six if you count the Faeroe Islands. Of these Sweden has the fewest reported covid cases, per capita. And, from its 2021 (but not 2020) track record, Sweden’s case count will be a higher proportion of total cases than the other Nordics. (Finland is most likely the Nordic with the biggest undercount, based on an analysis of ‘excess deaths’ versus ‘covid recorded deaths’.) Norway and Sweden have greater proportions of Omicron than the others; that’s mainly because the others already had substantial Delta outbreaks when Omicron appeared.
Sweden is interesting now with its new (albeit minority) Social Democratic (‘Labour’) government. The new government is ideologically more like that in Victoria (Australia), whereas the previous Swedish government had an approach to public health which was more like the New South Wales government approach. Though having more casualties early on, in the seven months to 30 November 2021, Sweden has had substantially fewer excess deaths than has Denmark (see my Phases of the Pandemic, 3 Dec 2021). Likewise, in Australia, the different approaches have so far seen ‘delta’ Victoria have a protracted pandemic with both many more days in lockdown, mandated mask wearing, and many more deaths; compared to larger ‘omicron’ New South Wales.
As has been true for much of the latter half of 2021, covid deaths have been dominated by the Caribbean territories and by Eastern Europe. And the USA, which is itself over 50 territories. In some cases – eg Serbia and Russia – actual covid deaths substantially exceed the (shown) covid-recorded deaths. (Belarus, not in these charts, will most likely have actual covid death rates similar to Russia.)
When we exclude the little places in the Caribbean and in Europe, we note the presence of all three Baltic States (now westernised countries), Guyana (the continental part of ‘West Indies’ cricket), and a substantial West European presence. Missing from the deaths’ table are the Omicron countries; British Isles, also Norway and Sweden (with Omicron). Also missing are the abovementioned southern African countries where Omicron probably originated.
Two countries to mention are in Asia. Vietnam, showing in the last chart, is having a hell of a time with Delta at present. So is South Korea, which doesn’t quite make it onto these charts. Way off-chart, is Japan, which has very little covid despite being an early recipient of Omicron.
The only Omicron country showing in the death charts is the USA. And we know that only a trivial number of American covid deaths, so far, have been with Omicron. Delta is the clear winner of the pre-Christmas scary-coronavirus match race.
My guess – and it’s only speculation – is that, while Delta will continue to prevail when it comes to serious covid illness and deaths, 2022 will be a much better year for humans. As in a number of popular stories, the bad guys may fight each other to their mutual demise. It may be a worse year for whooping cough, though (ref. Expert warns whooping cough outbreak due, Newshub, 23 Dec 2021). We will never be entirely safe from the ‘little guys’.
Keith Rankin (keith at rankin dot nz), trained as an economic historian, is a retired lecturer in Economics and Statistics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.