Call it, if you like, the “New Zealand factor”: countries led by women leaders have recorded 39.9% fewer deaths from covid than nations ruled by men. This is supported by a study by the University of Queensland (Australia), which assessed the extent to which different characteristics of individual countries preceding the pandemic impacted infections and deaths in the first year of CoViD-19, between January and December 2020. The research was published in Scientific Reports.
Hunting for differences. Australian scientists analyzed the response to the pandemic in 91 countries. While many nations have taken similar approaches to contain the spread of the virus, there have been huge differences in the number of cases and deaths, even in countries that are similar in socio-economic conditions and political history, such as Australia and New Zealand. “Although the Australian population is only five times larger than that of New Zealand, Australia had reported about 13 times more infections and 36 times more deaths as of 31 December 2020,” explains Kelvin Tan, author of the study.
One of the factors associated with a less burdensome impact of COVID has been the presence of women at the top of politics. Perhaps, the researchers speculate, because “female leaders tend to act promptly and decisively and are more risk averse when it comes to the loss of life, an essential factor in the prevention and final outcome of the pandemic.”
Protective factors. Other elements that seem to have mitigated the consequences of covid, because associated with fewer deaths, were the level of culture and trust in science of the population of the individual countries, in addition to their religious heterogeneity. An interesting aspect concerns technological progress: in the most technologically advanced countries there have been fewer deaths but more infections reported. On the one hand, in fact, better technology means the possibility of digital tracking of contacts and greater ease in identifying cases; on the other hand, by intervening more promptly, deaths are reduced.
Among the characteristics associated with the most dramatic outcomes of the pandemic, i.e. a greater number of deaths, there are an unbalanced gender ratio among males (more predisposed to contracting severe covid), population density, urbanization, political corruption. This information shows that, during a pandemic, interventions aimed at prevention have a greater effect on death reduction than treatment. The findings will be important in the management of future health emergencies.