The worst prepared country to deal with the deadly coronavirus is Somalia, according to data that measures a country’s ability to cope with infectious diseases.
The coronavirus outbreak, now declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, has left 362 dead and infected 17,300 globally, though the vast majority of cases have been reported in China, where the virus originated in Wuhan.
According to the infectious disease vulnerability index (IDVI) created by RAND, which is an indicator of a country’s ability to cope with the outbreak of an infectious disease, Somalia ranks the worst equipped with an overall score of 0. The IDVI ranks countries on a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 being the least prepared, and 1 the most.
In the context of coronavirus, the latest large-scale infectious disease to break out, the 2016 RAND index offers insights into how countries may cope.
Twenty-two of the 25 most vulnerable countries are found in sub-Saharan Africa. In general, North and South America as well as Europe score highly on the index.
In the Middle East, scores ranged from the relatively prepared UAE (0.76), Saudi Arabia (0.73), and Kuwait (0.66), to the less prepared Egypt (0.53), Lebanon (0.54), and Iraq (0.43). Egypt has started screening passengers arriving from China for signs of coronavirus at all entry points. Iraq has banned foreign arrivals from China.
The UAE has had five recorded cases of coronavirus, all of which were people who arrived from Wuhan. Tomorrow, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention will host an Instagram live event where they answer questions about coronavirus.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, only Jordan has recorded a case of coronavirus.
The outbreak has produced different responses from countries across the world. According to the 2016 index, which measured countries’ ability to cope with infectious diseases including the MERS and Zika outbreaks, each country can be ranked according to its vulnerability to infectious disease.
Some have introduced travel restrictions and increased screenings for travelers, as many airlines suspend flights to and from China. British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Oman Air have all suspended flights to China. The UAE’s Etihad has suspended flights and Emirates has reduced the capacity of its flights to China.
The US has an IDVI score of 0.92, and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US State Department issued the highest-level travel alerts for China, whose score is 0.66, advising its citizens to avoid travel to the country.
Norway scores a perfect 1, and their response has been measured, with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health saying there is no cause for concern in the country. However, Oslo’s blood bank recently implemented a 14-day quarantine for those who have been to international airports abroad.
The US, Australia (0.91), Russia (0.64), and Singapore (0.88) have closed their borders to visitors from China. Germany (0.97) sent a military aircraft to evacuate its citizens in China. The UK and Bangladesh have also had citizens recalled home.
The IDVI considers seven factors that influence disease vulnerability: demographic, health care, public health, disease dynamics, political-domestic, political-international, and economic.
However, as coronavirus originated in China and so far has primarily been transmitted directly and indirectly through people traveling from China, countries with low levels of travel from China are less likely to become infected regardless of their IDVI ranking.