The recent correlation I have noticed, with others commenting on it also, is that some of the most prominent nations with the most rapidly rising rates of coronavirus infections are led by somewhat authoritarian leaders who have recently dismissed the threat of it and engaged in policies that may have encouraged its spread. The most dramatic examples are India, Brazil, and the Philippines.
Last year India did not do too badly. It had only one wave, which was pretty well controlled by vigorous lockdown policies that sent many migrant workers from cities to villages. Increasingly authoritarian Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, he who is imposing Hindutva on the nation and suppressing various dissident voices. This apparent success led to a lot of complacency, with this marked by Modi holding mass rallies prior to upcoming elections, especially a sensitive one in West Bengal where Modi’s BJP is trying to take control of the state government. But now there has been a dramatic outbreak of the coronavirus, setting records for the most infections in a day of any nation, topping 400,000. Reports have it that hospitals are overwhelmed, and Modi is facing serious criticism.
That said, it must be noted that despite the recent surge in India, it remains 88th in the world in accumulated per capita deaths from the coronavirus. The situation in India could get a lot worse. At just over 200,000 total deaths it appears to be about to move into third place ahead of Mexico, whose semi-authoritarian and Trump-loving president who appears not to have pursued vigorous policies against the pandemic and which is 17th currently in the world in per capita deaths overall from the coronavirus, although new cases apparently peaked in January and are now declining there.
Brazil is clearly a serious case, with a leader who went even further than his role model Trump in dismissing the pandemic and sneering at scientific solutions. With 352,000 deaths it is second behind the US in aggregate and 12th in the world in per capita deaths, with a rate of new infections surging at a rate rising as fast as India’s. While Brazil remains a democratic nation, Jair Bolsoanaro has mumbled praise of previous military dictatorships, with his sons chiming in on this, and reports that the actual military is split between those who like such talk and might support a coup versus those who wish to support the democratic constitution. Bolsonaro is quite the poster boy for this current correlation.
Another nation with a rapid rise of cases is the Philippines, led by another authoritarian strongman, Duterte, notorious for simply having large numbers of his citizens murdered on accusations involving drug use. I am less well informed on policies there, but he also seems to fit the bill.
Now it may be that this curious current correlation is simply an ephemerum, a mere coincidence. Looking at the longer term data it could be argued in fact that there is a positive correlation between democracy and coronavirus deaths. All of the top 11 nations in the world on this ranking are in Europe, with Brazil at the top of the non-European ones, and the US at 15th place, with its 570,000 total dead. What has received little media attention is that the top 7 nations in per capita numbers are all former communist-ruled nations in Eastern Europe, although all currently are nominally democratic. But at the top, with 2800/million deaths is increasingly authoritarian Hungary. It is followed in second place by the Czech Republic and in third place by Bosnia-Herzegovinia. The top non-former communist state is Belgium in 8th place, with Italy in 10th, and the UK in 11th. India in 88th place is at 149/million deaths, although that is clearly rising.
So this current curious correlation certainly does not seem to tell the full story, although in a world where many are now getting vaccinated, and quite a few nations that suffered preciously seem to be beginning to get the pandemic under control, it is indeed curious that the nations leading to the world setting new records for new cases seem to be led by people who have dismissed the danger and been careless in their policies, along with exhibiting egomaniacal hunger for power.