Source: Our World in Data
On April 13 2020 and on January 21 2021, the UK had some of the highest death rates per head in the world. Even if different methods of calculation, over-counting, and changed methods of calculation were taken into account, our record looked very bad indeed.
It is important to add that like was never being compared with like: countries have different exposure to visitors, ethnic make-ups, resilience, lifestyles, health levels, openness to other economies, and so on.
That applies no less now, when the Covid story is more relatively favourable to the Government, than back then. The UK currently has the 26th worst death rate per head in the world. That’s four places below Italy, eleven above France, 23 above Germany (and 16 above that subject of perennial fascination, Sweden).
In other words, we have not done well so far when measured against roughly comparable European countries. Nonetheless, the gap in terms of absolute numbers isn’t a gulf.
Covid confirmed deaths per million in the UK to date are 2,164.96; in France, 1,690.7; in Germany, 1,229.15. We will see where the final figures end up in due course, now that a wave of cases is washing over our continental neighbours, as it washed over us earlier this year.
There are many reasons why the Government’s poll ratings were buoyant during the lockdown periods – and why there’s no evidence that the mass of voters believe it to be more culpable than other governments elsewhere.
The changing death number per head internationally is surely one of them. I don’t mean to suggest that people following the figures closely: obviously, they don’t. But they pick up a sense of what’s going on. They clock when Boris Johnson’s opponents are pushing a particular criticism at him – and when they aren’t.
You may or may not like his and Sajid Javid’s relatively light programme of restrictions in response to the Omicron variant to date, but the altered death number per head helps to explain why they have room for manoeuvre.