Nine months into the pandemic, Europe remains one of the regions worst affected by COVID-19. Ten of the 20 countries with the highest death count per million people are European. The other ten are in the Americas. This includes the US, which has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the world.
Most of Africa and Asia, on the contrary, still seems spared. Of the countries with reported COVID-related deaths, the ten with the lowest death count per million are in these parts of the world. But while mistakes and misjudgements have fuelled sustained criticism of the UK’s handling of the pandemic, the success of much of the developing world remains unsung.
Of course, a number of factors may explain lower levels of disease in the developing world: different approaches to recording deaths, Africa’s young demographic profile, greater use of outdoor spaces, or possibly even high levels of potentially protective antibodies gained from other infections.
But statistical uncertainty and favourable biology are not the full story. Some developing countries have clearly fared better by responding earlier and more forcefully against COVID-19. Many have the legacy of Sars, Mers and Ebola in their institutional memory. As industrialised countries have struggled, much of the developing world has quietly shown remarkable levels of preparedness and creativity during the pandemic. Yet the developed world is paying little attention.