The VICE Guide to Right Now

These Are the Countries Most and Least Prepared for an Epidemic Like the Coronavirus

As of writing, there are now 7,783 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 170 deaths around the world, with a high concentration in China.
January 30, 2020, 4:49am
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For illustrative purposes only. Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus from Wuhan, China last month, the number of confirmed cases has already overtaken the 2003 SARS epidemic. It took six months for the number of SARS cases to exceed 5,000 in mainland China and the coronavirus surpassed that in just one month.

sars coronavirus comparison

Graph by Statista.

As of writing, there are now 7,783 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 170 deaths around the world, with a high concentration in China. Apart from nearby countries like South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, it has also spread to countries in the West such as the United States, Canada, France, and Germany.

Chinese authorities have placed Wuhan on lockdown, prohibiting anyone to leave the city. As there is still no cure for the disease, health officials from various countries have also warned foreigners against travelling to Wuhan, reminding people to be more hygienic and to wear face masks to prevent the disease from spreading further.


Graph by Statista.

But not all countries are prepared for an epidemic like this.

The Global Health Security (GHS) Index released in October 2019 assessed levels of global health security across 195 countries. It analysed each country’s level of preparedness by judging whether or not they have the proper tools to deal with serious disease outbreaks.

To create the index, researchers worked with an international advisory panel of 21 experts from 13 countries to create a detailed and comprehensive framework of 140 questions, organised across six categories, 34 indicators, and 85 sub-indicators, to assess a country’s capability to prevent and mitigate epidemics and pandemics. The GHS Index then answered the questions using open-source information: data that a country has published on its own or has reported to or been reported by an international entity.

Each country was ranked by how they fare in preventing the emergence or release of pathogens, how early they are able to detect and report epidemics of potential international concern, how rapid they respond to these epidemics, how sufficiently and robust the health sector treat the sick, their commitments to improving national capacity in regards to financing and adhering to norms, and the risks in their current environments or vulnerability to biological threats.


Graph by Statista.

It turns out that the United States has the strongest measures in place, coming in at number one with 83.5 out of 100 in preparedness. The United Kingdom came second with 77.9, followed by the Netherlands with 75.6.

China comes in the middle, ranking 51st with a score of 48.2. Other countries in Asia like Vietnam (49.1), the Philippines (47.6), and India (46.5) were also in the middle of the pack. Thailand (73.2), ranked 6th, and South Korea (70.2), ranked 9th, are the only Asian countries to make it to the top 10.

Of all continents, Africa scored lowest. It had some of the weakest countries when it came to containing diseases, with Equatorial Guinea (16.2) and Somalia (16.6) garnering the lowest scores. Fortunately, no country in Africa has reported a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

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