Singapore clinches the top spot in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking this month, having climbed through the ranks to overtake New Zealand for the first time as the best place to be during the ongoing pandemic. Outside Singapore, notable improvements have also been observed across countries like South Africa, Portugal, and Spain, whereas others – China, Turkey, Bangladesh and the Philippines – are being highlighted for more unfavourable reasons.
Singapore saw a rocky start to the pandemic in 2020, with local cases increasing daily by the hundreds, and even up to more than a thousand, at its peak. Despite this, it has since brought locally transmitted cases down to near zero in recent months, and maintained a low fatality rate.
A myriad of measures has made this feat possible – border curbs, rampant testing, strict quarantine programmes, vigorous contact tracing, and a widespread vaccination rollout programme. As of 23 March, over 1.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered, reaching a fifth of its population.
In day-to-day life, residents have largely returned to pre-pandemic normalcy, albeit with some limitations; wearing of masks is still mandatory, gatherings are limited to eight individuals, and safe-distancing measures continue to apply. Regardless, large-scale events have since resumed with restrictions, employees are able to return to their workplaces for the most part, and residents have even been able to embark on cruises to nowhere.
These factors have culminated in the city state rising to the top of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in April, edging out front-runner New Zealand by 0.1 points in terms of the Bloomberg Resilience Score, and taking the lead against other countries in the top five, Australia (3rd), Israel (4th) and Taiwan (5th).
Established in November 2020, Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking is a monthly evaluation that scores 53 of the world’s largest economies (worth more than US$200 billion) on their success at containing the pandemic with the least social and economic disruption.
The ranking is determined based on 10 core metrics, split into two broad categories of Covid status and quality of life (QOL). Each indicator is scored on a scale of zero to 100, with zero indicating the worst performance, and 100 the best. The final score is determined by an average of a country’s performance across the 10 indicators, with equal weightage allocated to each.
At the top of the leaderboards
While Singapore lagged behind New Zealand in aspects of Covid prevalence and positive test rates, the island far superseded New Zealand in terms of percentage of population vaccinated.
In fact, Singapore is ahead of all other Asia-Pacific nations when it comes to vaccinations. Bloomberg posits that early success at containing the virus in countries like China and Japan has resulted in people appearing less enthusiastic at getting vaccinated compared to Western nations. Some did not see the urgent need to take the shots. Other countries within the top five rankings, except Israel, also appear to be lagging behind on population inoculation.
Israel, on the other hand, comes in at the top of the vaccination leaderboard, with 57.4 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. This success sees it gaining one position since the previous ranking, overtaking Taiwan to take fourth place, despite lower prevalence and fatality rates in the latter.
Covid statuses aside, the top three countries – Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia – all displayed stellar QOL standards, allowing for community mobility amongst its populations.
For the above mentioned countries, success is attributed by Bloomberg to various factors, including a high level of communication, the closure of borders, and investment in public health infrastructure.
Special mentions are made in Bloomberg’s report to South Africa, Portugal and Spain, as these countries saw significant improvement in their Bloomberg Resilience Scores, and likewise a notable rise in their rankings. South Africa, in particular, rose 16 places as its fatality rate almost halved to 4.8 per cent from March. Similarly, Spain’s fatality rate has fallen drastically from 8.3 per cent to 1.4 per cent in the past month.
Meanwhile, Portugal jumps 13 spots as QOL markers indicate improvement, leading to an easing of social distancing measures in recent months.
On the other side of the coin lies China, Turkey, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. April’s rankings see China drop out of the top 10, as a cluster of cases are detected in a border city neighbouring Myanmar. The area has since been locked down, and its entire population re-tested.
Elsewhere in the past month, Covid-19 cases and deaths have spiked to record highs in Turkey, leading the country to a partial lockdown, and plunging it 19 spots in the Ranking. Bangladesh and the Philippines, too, experienced a resurgence, and fell 13 and 10 positions respectively.
Vaccination is not a panacea
While increased vaccination coverage has seen improvements in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, other locations like France and Chile are driving home the point that vaccination needs to be accompanied by other measures to bring the pandemic under control.
Despite having decent access to vaccines in France and Chile, outbreaks have swelled in these countries as mutations of the Covid-19 virus have prevailed. Similarly in Poland, premature relaxation of precautions allowed a mutation first detected in the UK to spread, resulting in record highs in cases and fatalities.
Vaccine doses are also in short supply among developing and poorer nations such as India, where Covid-19 infections have ballooned in the past month with daily case increases of hundreds of thousands.
Updated monthly, Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking provides an overview of the global landscape throughout the pandemic. In the five months since its establishment, countries have risen and fallen through the ranks in equal measure, demonstrating the volatility and speed in which the Covid outbreak can change despite precautionary measures and vaccination rollouts.
And while Singapore may have topped the rankings this month, the recent cluster at the Westlite Woodlands dormitory underscores the possibility of reinfection and infection post-vaccination, emphasising a continued need for caution and vigilance in the foreseeable future.