Arne O. Holm says The Political Face of the Pandemic

The world was hit by Donald Trump and a pandemic at the same time. A fatal cocktail hitting the most vulnerable amongst us the hardest. (Photo of Trump: Gage Skidmore, photo of Corona virus: Roan Fourie/Flickr)

Commentary: While Norway is on the brink of re-opening society after the pandemic, as if the term “after the pandemic” makes sense, other countries barely manage to count their dead. The overview over the number of deaths is not only a medical encyclopedia.

It is also a study of political and economic disparity.

The official figures, to the extent we can still talk about official statistics, say that so far, 4.5 million people have died from Covid-19.

Three times as high

The Economist has made its own calculations and concludes that the true figures are three times as high, or 15.2 million deaths. The model, which simply put compares the number of deaths in years without pandemic with number of deaths during the pandemic, is encumbered with insecurity. The number crackers behind the computer screens are nevertheless quite confident that death figures are in the interval between 9.3 million to 18.1 million, and have concluded that 15.2 million deaths is the most likely number.

In sum, this means that the true, brutal face of the pandemic is three times higher than official statistics show.

The figures do not only show the ravaging of the pandemic; they also reveal clear political differences between the countries, even thought hat is not part of The Economist’s analyses.

Democracy has gradually decayed and bowed before conspiracy theorists

Figures vary dramatically also across the eight Arctic states, which constitute the editorial impact field of this online newspaper.

While Norway, Denmark and Iceland have few or no more deaths than in a normal year, the same figures for the USA and Russia are alarmingly high. The big difference between the two superpowers is their ability and will to present accurate figures.

The USA and Russia

According to official statistics, the USA is far harder hit than Russia. Figures from The Economist turns this image upside down. If we are to believe the latter, the reporting system in the USA works, whereas Russia consequently and brutally beautifies the image. Th latter has both political as well as organizational explanations. It is about what image Russia wants to paint of itself to the world, combined with a health care system that only to a very limited extend is able to  catch disease and death following in the wake of the pandemic.

Statistics work in the USA, while the political ability to fight the pandemic was absent under Donald Trump. The American democracy has gradually decayed and bowed before conspiracy theorists all the way in to the White House. The fight against Covid has not only been a medical fight, but first and foremost a fight against the country’s leading politicians.

According to official statistics, there are, relatively seen, more deaths in the USA compared with Russia. However, reality is quite different.

The world was hit by Donald Trump and a pandemic at the same time

Move your gaze towards Europe, and the statistics reinforce and underline the political dimension of the pandemic.

Democratic deficit

In European countries where democracy is sacrificed for nationalist thinking, the map is glaringly red. Death figures soar, and both these as well as the deviations between official statistics and calculated death figures increase almost proportionally with an increasing democratic deficit.

Norway puts its trust in increased vaccination in the lead-up to the scheduled re-opening.

In other parts of the world, there is a struggle partly about getting hold of enough vaccines, partly about convincing the population that the vaccine is necessary at all. The former is a question of distribution in which the rich part of the world carries the main responsibility. The latter is the outcome of the fact that the undermining of political leadership often starts on top, with the leadership itself.

The world was hit by Donald Trump and a pandemic at the same time. A fatal cocktail hitting the most vulnerable amongst us the hardest.

Those who cannot even hear the cheers for a stock exchange peaking. Right in the middle of a pandemic.

This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.

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