Measuring Israel’s lost ground vis-a-vis Covid-19

Jerusalem scene before Covid-19

In early May 2020 I presented an analysis of data on deaths attributed to Covid-19 relative to population for the 36 OECD countries. At that time, Israel was 23rd on the list, meaning that 22 countries had experienced a higher number of deaths per million of their population than Israel, with 13 countries having a lower mortality rate.

In the six months that have passed since then, Israel experienced a major surge of infection that started slowly in June, reached a stable plateau during July and August, and then accelerated sharply in September. Israel reached a daily rate of new infections in the third week of September that was more than ten times its April peak. This surge has led to a sharp increase in the number of deaths in Israel attributed to Covid-19. Following a renewed lockdown in Israel begun in mid-September, the rate of new infections and the percentage of tests showing positive results have both declined significantly during the last month. Some other OECD countries have also experienced renewed surges of infections since May and their governments have pursued a range of responses.

The table below shows the updated results for the 36 OECD countries. The accumulated numbers of deaths attributed to Covid-19 by country as of November 2 was taken from the Johns-Hopkins database. The first two columns show the relative ranking of each country both at the beginning of May and the beginning of November. The higher the rank number, the worse the outcome as measured by deaths per million of population. The third column shows the change in rank from May to November. A negative number in the “change in rank” column signifies a worsening of rank.

It is recognized that the number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 may be an underestimate and countries likely differ in the accuracy of their counts. It is also possible that the accuracy of the count has evolved over time within a country.

Four countries experienced the greatest worsening of relative ranking between May and November: Chile, Mexico, Czech Republic and Israel. While Israel was in 23rd place in May, meaning its mortality/million result was better than nearly two thirds of OECD countries, by November it was 13th on the list, meaning that about two thirds of the OECD countries now have a better record than Israel.

There has been much criticism of the Israeli government’s handling of Covid-19, starting with a too aggressive relaxation of restrictions in May and June following the first lockdown, combined with a delayed, confused, overly political, and uneven response to the second surge of infection in late summer. The table’s results lend credence to these criticisms.

          Nov 2, 2020  
          reported deaths
May 05 Nov 02 change OECD population deaths from per million
rank rank in rank member (millions) Covid-19 population
1 1 0 Belgium 11.5 11,737 1,021
2 2 0 Spain 47 35,878 763
29 3 -26 Chile 19.1 14,247 746
27 4 -23 Mexico 127 91,895 724
4 5 1 United Kingdom 66 46,807 709
9 6 -3 United States 330 231,003 700
3 7 4 Italy 60 38,826 647
8 8 0 Sweden 10.3 5,938 577
5 9 4 France 67 37,057 553
6 10 4 Netherlands 17.5 7,498 428
7 11 4 Ireland 4.9 1,915 391
25 12 -13 Czech Republic 10.7 3,429 320
23 13 -10 Israel 9.2 2,569 279
10 14 4 Switzerland 8.6 2,348 273
12 15 3 Canada 38 10,230 269
11 16 5 Luxembourg 0.6 152 253
13 17 4 Portugal 10.3 2,544 247
22 18 -4 Hungary 9.8 1,889 193
17 19 2 Slovenia 2.1 363 173
26 20 -6 Poland 38 5,875 155
16 21 5 Austria 8.9 1,159 130
15 22 7 Germany 83 10,542 127
14 23 9 Denmark 5.8 723 125
20 24 4 Turkey 83 10,326 124
18 25 7 Finland 5.5 358 65
28 26 -2 Lithuania 2.8 170 61
30 27 -3 Greece 10.7 635 59
19 28 9 Estonia 1.3 73 56
21 29 8 Norway 5.4 282 52
31 30 -1 Latvia 1.9 77 41
33 31 -2 Slovakia 5.5 219 40
36 32 -4 Australia 25.7 907 35
24 33 9 Iceland 0.4 12 30
34 34 0 Japan 126 1,781 14
32 35 3 South Korea 52 468 9
35 36 1 New Zealand 5.0 25 5

 

About the Author
Lewis Rosen is a retired economist who has lived in Jerusalem for more than 35 years. Born and educated in the US, he worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity for two years in Washington D.C. and was on the economics faculty of York University in Toronto, Canada for 13 years. In Israel he has been involved in a wide range of business planning and economic analysis projects.
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