Malta has ranked 14th in a global index gauging how countries have performed in the coronavirus pandemic.

The index of 98 countries, compiled by Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, was based on six key indicators. These were the following: confirmed cases, confirmed deaths, confirmed cases per million, confirmed deaths per million, confirmed cases as a proportion of tests and tests per thousand people.

An average of the rankings across the six indicators was normalised for each country to produce a score between 0 (worst performing) and 100 (best performing) on any given day in the 36 weeks that followed the 100th confirmed case of COVID-19.

Malta scored 73.3 out of 100, ranking 14th. Neighbouring Italy came in 59th place with a score of 40.4, while the UK ranked 66th with a score of 39.5.

The top five scores were registered in New Zealand (94.4), Vietnam (90.8), Taiwan (86.4), Cyprus (83.3) and Rwanda (80.8). The lowest scores were by Brazil (4), Mexico (6.5), Colombia (7.7), Iran (15.9) and the US (17.3).

The index found that, in general, countries with smaller populations, cohesive societies and capable institutions have a comparative advantage in dealing with a global crisis such as a pandemic. The index tracked the measures of COVID-19 prevalence in countries with publicly available and comparable data extracted from the Our World in Data series, which is maintained by researchers at the University of Oxford and the non-for-profit Global Change Data Lab.

Fourteen-day rolling averages of new daily figures were calculated for the six key indicators.

The index found that countries with smaller populations have a comparative advantage

“Collectively, these indicators pointed to how well or poorly countries have managed the pandemic. Fewer reported cases and deaths, both in aggregate and per capita terms, point towards a better response to the virus,” the institute said.

“More tests conducted on a per capita basis reveal a more accurate picture of the extent of the pandemic at the national level. Lower rates of positive tests, meanwhile, indicate greater degrees of control over the transmission of COVID-19.”

The researchers said that while, overall, no single type of country emerged the unanimous winner in the period examined, certain structural factors appeared to be more closely associated with positive outcomes.

For example, smaller countries with populations of fewer than 10 million people proved more agile than the majority of their larger counterparts in handling the health emergency for most of 2020.

Systemic factors alone – a society’s regional provenance, political system, economic development or size – could not account fully for the differences in responses.

“The results point to some of the strengths and vulnerabilities stemming from the way different countries are set up to deal with a public policy challenge of this scale. But policy choices and political circumstances of the day appear to be just as important in shaping national responses to the pandemic.”

Correction January 29: A previous version stated that New Zealand was virus-free. As of January 29, it had 72 active cases.

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