On April 17, I did a blog post looking at how four countries besides Canada and the United States were doing in their struggle against the pandemic. Here’s an update on their situation. As with us and our southern neighbour, it’s a bit of a good news/bad news story. First, the good news.
Germany On April 17, Germany’s case load and death toll stood at 143,685 and 4352. As of today at noon, the totals are 178,170 and 8213. As I noted in my previous post, while Germany hasn’t necessarily outperformed other European countries such as France, United Kingdom and Italy with infections, its death toll continues to be much lower, which has been attributed to a younger patient population and vigorous testing and contact tracing to limit the chance of an outbreak. Now, Germany is taking tentative steps to reopen its society/economy although the government remains alert to the possibility of future outbreaks.
Sweden On the good news/bad news scale, Sweden falls in the middle. Again, as I noted in the earlier post, Sweden has differed from most countries around the world in handling the pandemic in that it didn’t impose as stringent physical distancing and lockdown measures. Conservative pundits have held Sweden up as an example of how a country can balance public health and economic concerns.
The story isn’t that simple, of course. To begin with, Sweden did impose some restrictions. As well, as citizens, Swedes have a reputation for being well-educated and socially conscious, so they could be better trusted to observe voluntary restrictions that accomplished the same goals as the mandatory measures implemented in other countries with less um… “conscientious” citizens.
As well, Sweden has been criticized for having a much higher infection and death toll than its Nordic neighbours Denmark, Finland and Norway. On April 17, it had 13,216 infections and 1400 deaths. As of today, the totals were 31,523 and 3831. In addition, over the last week, Sweden has had the highest number of deaths per capita of any country in Europe.
Russia In the early days of the pandemic, Russian leader Vladimir Putin insisted the virus was under control. Later, he more or less went into hiding, letting others take the lead/blame in addressing the pandemic. On April 17, the country had 32,008 cases and 273 deaths. Since then, the number of cases has skyrocketed. As of today, it sits at 308,705, which puts Russia second behind the U.S. in total number of cases. At 2972, the death toll remains relatively (even improbably) low. So you can accept that figure (or not) as you wish.
Similar to other populist leaders who have bungled their pandemic response, Putin is desperate to try to downplay the virus’s impact. He’s even pushing to lift restrictions that have been in place for six weeks and restart the Russian economy. But with statistics showing the pandemic has yet to peak, and the virus spreading beyond Moscow and Saint Petersburg to other parts of the country, Putin is playing a dangerous game.
Brazil On April 17, Brazil’s case load stood at 33,682 and its death toll was 2,141. Since then, like Russia, infections have skyrocketed. Deaths have shot up too, with figures as of today sitting at 275,382 and 18,130.
When I did the April 17 post, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro had already fired one health minister for refusing to endorse the president’s “plan” to use hydroxycloroquine as a miracle drug to treat the virus and help Brazil regain its economic footing. The replacement health minister resigned on May 15 after a similar clash, but undaunted, Bolsanaro continues to push the drug as a treatment — leading to rifts with state governors who think the best way to protect their citizens is to follow the advice of public health officials.