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The 20 countries in the world best prepared for an epidemic like coronavirus still aren’t really all that ready

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  • The novel coronavirus outbreak has hit over 100 countries around the world, and some are more ready for an epidemic than others.
  • A 2019 report by researchers at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Johns Hopkins University and The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked 195 countries on how prepared they are to fight a major disease outbreak.
  • While the US and several other wealthy nations are at the top of the list, the report emphatically states that no country is fully ready for a pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China has now spread to more than 100 countries. Over 116,000 people have been infected, and more than 4,000 have died from COVID-19, the illness that the virus causes.

And while some of the countries that have experienced coronavirus cases are better prepared to handle a major epidemic than others, nowhere in the world is actually fully prepared, according to a comprehensive report assessing the state of readiness for a major disease outbreak.

The Global Health Security Index, a 2019 report compiled by researchers at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Johns Hopkins University, and The Economist Intelligence Unit, scores nations on 140 questions in six categories related to biological security and disease readiness: prevention of the emergence or release of pathogens, epidemic detection and reporting, rapid response to epidemics, health system strength and robustness, compliance with international norms around diseases, and the overall political, economic, and environmental risk environment.

According to the report, the US is the best-prepared country in the world for a major disease outbreak, a fact touted by President Donald Trump in a press conference in late February. However, the report very emphatically notes that even being at the top of the ranking may not be good enough.

“National health security is fundamentally weak around the world. No country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics, and every country has important gaps to address,” according to the report.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, here are the 20 countries best equipped to handle an epidemic, according to the report:

20. Portugal



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Portugal received very high scores for its international commitments and cross-border agreements on health emergency responses, as well as broad healthcare access. However, the report gave it a below average score on its epidemiology workforce and training programs.

So far, Portugal has 41 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

19. Belgium



Choong Jackie / EyeEm/Getty Images


Belgium received perfect scores for its biosafety policies and communications with healthcare workers during public health emergencies, but was docked for its emergency preparedness and response planning, as well as its risk communications to the public.

So far, Belgium has 267 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

18. Malaysia



Reuters


Malaysia received perfect scores for its communications with healthcare workers during a public health emergency and its supplies of protective equipment for health workers, but had below-average scores for its emergency preparedness and response planning, as well as its ability to exercise response plans.

So far, Malaysia has 129 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

9. South Korea



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South Korea has become one of the central hotspots of the coronavirus epidemic, with over 7,500 cases and 54 deaths. President Moon Jae-in said in early March that the “entire nation has entered a state of war against this infectious disease.”

According to the Global Health Security Index report, South Korea has very robust disease detection and reporting systems.

6. Thailand



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Thailand’s biosafety practices, links between public health and security authorities, and capacity to test and approve new medical countermeasures were among the areas for which the researchers gave the country top scores. However, the report suggested that the country faces a worse-than-average political and security risk environment.

So far, Thailand has 53 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

4. Australia



Kokkai Ng/Getty Images


Australia’s disease detection and reporting was very well rated, with top scores for the country’s laboratory systems, epidemiology workforce, and data sharing between different health sectors. However, the country received the lowest score for its ability to exercise response plans.

So far, Australia has 107 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

3. Netherlands



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The Netherlands received top scores for its capacity to test and approve new medical countermeasures, risk communication, and links between public and health and security authorities. The country also had near-perfect scores for healthcare access and socioeconomic resilience.

So far, the Netherlands has 382 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

2. United Kingdom



Reuters


The UK received the highest score among all 195 countries in the study for its rapid response capabilities, with perfect scores for exercising response plans, links between public health and security authorities, trade and travel restrictions, and risk communication.

So far, the UK has 373 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

1. United States



Getty Images/Spencer Platt


The US had the highest scores among all 195 countries in the study in several categories, including prevention of the emergence or release of pathogens, early detection and reporting of epidemics, and overall health system capacity. However, the country’s score for healthcare access was below the global average.

Despite the country’s high score on this ranking, the US government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has come under criticism from public health experts and others. Testing rates in the US have been much lower than in other countries affected by the virus, meaning that the extent of the outbreak remains unclear. 

So far, the US has 763 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

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