May 08, 2020

Our Team of 5 million well-set to bubble with the Aussies

At Level 4 and Level 3 “We got this!” How has our Team of 5 million done?

Three weeks ago I questioned whether the New Zealand community could assure Anika Moa, Taika Waititi and others that in controlling this pandemic “We got this!” The performance of our Team of 5 million says we can say that, so far!  But how well has our Team of 5 million performed? 

Here we compare the team’s performance with that of similar-sized and nature of countries, like the Scandinavians. We then look at the ANZACs’ performance against relevant ‘continents’ in a global context. To background the current trans-Tasman talks we see how the ANZAC partners have done. Finally as we contemplate opening border later, we have a look at which global areas are improving and how good their testing capability is.

Our competitors as a Team of 5 million, and our ranking

Countries with about five million people and similar standard of living, urban and country environment pattern close to us are the Scandinavian ones, and Ireland. Norway and Finland are five million and similar density, Denmark is also five but a more dense population and Sweden about the same density but twice the population. Ireland about five million and population density half way between New Zealand and Denmark. So against this cohort, what does our ranking look like? Sweden has 10 million people so in effect I have given them two teams and show the figures for a Team of 5 million Swedes.

The Kiwi Team of 5 million ranks number one by a long shot. Ranked second equal are Finland and Norway, the Fins with lower case numbers but higher deaths. These two have four or five times as many cases and 11 or 12 times as many deaths as New Zealand. Then ranked fifth equal are Sweden’s five million and Ireland. These have eight to 15 times as many cases, and 67 to 71 times as many deaths as New Zealand.

Teams of 5 million COVID-19 cases COVID-19 deaths
Rank Country Number at
5 May
Multiple of
Number at 5
Multiple of
1 New Zealand 1,486 1 20 1
2= Finland 5,412 4 246 12
2= Norway 7,928 5 215 11
4 Denmark 9,821 7 503 25
*5= Sweden 11,608 8 1,427 71
5= Ireland 21,983 15 1,339 67

*  Sweden has 10 million people. These numbers are for a Team of 5 million.

I am not doing any epidemiology modelling, but we can just observe that if our performance had been the same as the similar countries Sweden or Ireland we would have lost over 1,300 more people to COVID-19 than we have actually lost.

Australasia ranks really well compared with some continents

Using some poetic licence we could think of some main continents which we have been close to, or may be looking to open access with post-COVID-19.
For Asia I have included Southeast Asian countries, China and India, the main ‘New Zealand facing’ countries. And for the continents I show the countries’ simple average of each number, otherwise China and India would swamp the numbers. The two measures here are the cases per million people, and deaths per million people. Again Australasia is first ranked on the table.

At this high level, Asia has about double the number of cases but about the same death rate as Australasia. This is a little surprising given that China was the source and after a great start Singapore now has a very high number of cases, though very few recorded deaths.

'Continents' performance COVID-19 cases COVID-19 deaths
Rank Continent Countries Cases per
Multiple of
Per million Multiple of
1 Australasia 2 280 1 4 1
2 Asia (NZ facing) 7 520 2 3 1
3 Scandinavia 4 1,630 6 110 29
4= Western Europe 12 3,120 11 320 84
4= United States 1 3,730 13 220 57

It just gets worse from there with Scandinavia having about 30 times the death rate of Australasia, United States (so far) having 57 times the Australasia death rate, and Western Europe a staggering 84 times the Australasia death rate.

Either side of the ditch the story is similar

As at present, if we take the numbers country-by-country the performance by both New Zealand and Australia have been very similar. If anything the present numbers show Australia with a slightly better performance than New Zealand. Since both of us seem to have the virus well-contained overall, the situation may not change greatly unless a specific new cluster breaks out in one or other country.

The current numbers are for Australia with 270 cases per million people, and four deaths per million. The comparison is New Zealand with 310 cases per million people and also four deaths per million. 

Australasian comparison COVID-19 cases COVID-19 deaths
Australia 270 4
New Zealand 310 4

A slight difference there but both very dramatically better when compared with Scandinavia, or the Western Europe and the United States ‘continents’.

The ANZAC game is on now!

These numbers make sense for the current work the New Zealand and Australian governments are doing to look at ways, means and details of judiciously opening borders. Some of our media indications in the daily stand-ups would link best-performing provinces, states, cities in one country with that in the other. That needs some balance, but our mutual tourism and familial patterns could open some interesting changes as we build out of the lockdowns.

Joining low to no COVID Tairawhiti or Gisborne with Tasmania would likely not kick-start tourism, but some reduced emphasis on the Auckland and Sydney/ Melbourne hubs could emerge as a positive lift to local tourism in the circumstances. South Australia has done well with COVID and an Adelaide to Wellington link could team up the Barossa, Clare and others with our Hawke’s Bay and Top of the South wine regions. There are bound to be other new ideas. 

And beyond that it will be a long haul

There are variations in the performance of some of the countries in New Zealand-facing Southeast Asia, China and India. The same can be said for other continents.

Our future focus will doubtless be on whether or not potential bilateral partners have their virus controlled in the first instance, with daily death rates approaching zero. Then can we be confident they have the testing capacity to be able to stamp out future emergence of COVID-19?

Forward prospects Daily deaths change
% 5 May
COVID tests per
million people
New Zealand 0.0 32,485
Australia 1.0 26,069
Asia (NZ facing) 1.4 9,640
Scandinavia 2.0 28,616
Western Europe 1.2 26,240
United States 3.0 23,208

So far, we are looking good, but the long haul international performance is patchy on both counts.