Why Do COVID-19 Fatality Rates Differ Across Countries? An Explorative Cross-country Study Based on Select Indicators

Global Business Review


It is believed that the determinants of fatality rates due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across countries may be influenced by factors such as poor health infrastructure and access to public health prevailed in a country, BCG vaccination (The Economics Times, 2020) and demographic factors. Indeed, there is extensive evidence in recent times that not only developing countries but some developed countries are also characterized by poor conditions of public health infrastructure (The Guardian, 2016).

Again, access to healthcare may not be the same for all inhabitants. For instance, it appears that the ethnic minorities are dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate in both the USA and the UK. Recent research revealed that ethnic minorities in both countries are dying in disproportionately high numbers compared to the white people (Barr et al., 2020O’Neal, 2020). 

For example, The Guardian analysis found that of 12,593 who died in hospital in England up to 19 April 2020, 19 percent are Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) even though these groups make only 15 percent of the general population in England. Likewise, in the USA, contraction rates and fatality rates of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are stronger across all States among minority population than the other groups. 

For example, in Michigan, the Black population contributes 15 percent of the total state population but constitutes 35 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19. This implies that Blacks in Michigan are 133 percent more likely to contract the novel coronavirus relative to their overall representation in the state. According to a report published by Brookings Institution, with a fatality rate poised to near 4 percent in Michigan, Blacks are also over-represented for fatality rate related to COVID-19, accounting for 40 percent of all fatalities state-wide. For comparison, Whites represent 25 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and 26 percent of deaths while they constitute over 75 percent of the state population (Ray, 2020). Thus, it appears that in both the economies there have been health inequalities.

However, fatality rates are also high in Italy and Spain partly explained by demographic factors such as population age structure (Dowd et al., 2020). The current fatality rate due to this pandemic in the rest of the economies is just the reflection of their woeful public health infrastructure made by the respective governments. Evidently, most of the economies including India are now turning to their governments and public healthcare systems to combat this pandemic. The citizens of these economies are looking with suspicion at the countries’ ability to fight the COVID-19 because of their hapless public healthcare system. The question remains whether the existing private sector linked healthcare system prevents a large section of the population from taking advantage of health benefits that are assumed to be available to all. It is now well established that the real beneficiaries are rich households in the current system and they can easily access and exploit the system in most countries including India.

This article contributes to our understanding of how COVID-19 spread in select countries in both developed and developing economies.

Click here to read the complete research article.


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