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Analysis of COVID-19 deaths for the month of June reveals some intriguing realities about this mysterious pandemic. And a few surprises.

It is possible to successfully suppress the coronavirus even without a vaccine. More than 20 major developed countries have done so, if we regard fewer deaths than five per million inhabitants per month as success.

This is not the headline, however. The glaring reality the June figures confirm is that the pandemic is far from under control globally.

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Total deaths worldwide during June were 135,358. That is only slightly below the May tally of 142,532. The grand total at the end of June was 513,211, according to Worldometers.

Best 10 highly developed countries by deaths per million

Taiwan, New Zealand and Slovakia achieved the creditable outcome of zero deaths in June.

Australia came close to this until June 24 when a Victorian man in his 80s died, the first fatality in 31 days. Another was recorded the following day in NSW, although this was a reclassification of an April death.

Eleven countries recorded fewer than one death per million population, as shown in the chart, below.

After these 11, another 12 recorded deaths per million between one and five. Eight recorded deaths between five and 10 per million. This suggests close to two thirds of the world’s developed countries have beaten the pandemic, or soon will.

Note: Countries analysed here are the 52 major nations — above 1 million inhabitants — classified by the UNDP as very highly developed. These are most of the world’s wealthy countries with strong health care systems and which we assume provide reliable data, although this is an assumption. Full data on all countries, including those outside this list of 52, is available at Worldometers.

Worst 10 developed countries by deaths per million

At the other end of the spectrum, 10 countries copped more than 25 deaths per million inhabitants, as shown in the next chart. Four conspicuous failures recorded more than 60 deaths per million in June — the USA, Sweden, the UK and Chile.

This is an intriguing list. Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait are run by unelected families or individuals. The United States and Chile have self-proclaimed billionaire tycoons as president running unconventional and divisive administrations.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took control of his Conservative Party and the nation between elections last July by surfing the wave of anti-European Union sentiment. He subsequently won the December 2019 national election. Canada and Sweden are liberal democracies with progressive or centrist federal governments.

Success in Western Europe

Stunning reversals of the course of the pandemic have occurred in several European countries most severely whacked in the early weeks. Spain is the standout with a dreadful toll of 8,464 dead in March and then an even worse April when 16,079 lives were lost. The Spanish government’s strict shutdown took effect in May with just 3,487 deaths. June was even better with 325 deaths — one fiftieth of April’s losses, or 2%.

Switzerland’s bell curve is almost as impressive as Spain’s with June deaths at 43, which is 3.3% of April’s 1,304. Other western European countries to slash fatalities in June to below 10% of their April toll were Finland, Austria, Germany, Norway and Denmark.

These nations should soon be able to declare victory also.

Disaster in the Americas

The opposite is happening in North and South America where several countries watched the pandemic explode in western Europe but failed to take the precautions adopted in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Malaysia. Canada, Chile and the USA are all in the bottom 10 by deaths per million in June.

Brazil and Peru, while not very highly developed countries and hence not part of this analysis, have also been badly impacted. In fact, those five nations which comprise 8.1% of the world’s population accounted for 48.1% of the world’s June deaths.

We shall now see what happens in July, and hope more countries emulate the efforts of those showing definite reward for effort. Current trajectories, however, suggest many won’t.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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