According to press reports, a team of researchers at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy found that more people die, on average, from the COVID-19 infection in “populist” countries than in countries that their (rather arbitrary) methodology classifies as “non-populist.” The study covers 42 countries, 11 of which it considers populist, and includes data for 2020.
The conclusion? For every 100 deaths, there were 8 extra deaths in non-populist countries and 18 in populist ones. Sounds alarming. But which countries exactly are we talking about?
As far as the study goes, the 11 states with populist leadership are the following: Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Israel, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, the UK and the USA. Take a couple of them out, and we would be happy to be listed alongside these countries any day of the week.
The study argues that the governments in the countries it views as “populist,” like Hungary, introduced fewer containment measures against COVID-19; the “experts” also suggest that we generally have less regard for the health of our citizens. I beg to differ.
Since the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, Hungary has always prioritized the health of its people. In fact, Hungary was one of the few countries that (unlike most of our Western friends) did not turn access to much-needed vaccines into a political question. Thanks to good decisions early on, and the Coronavirus Protection Act in particular, Hungary was able to move quickly and led Europe’s vaccination race for months. It only hit a plateau when society’s willingness to get vaccinated reached its upper threshold.
Meanwhile, PM Orbán’s government has been fighting anti-vaccination voices in Hungary and is doing everything in its capacity to build popular trust in vaccination and make it easier for people to get the shot.
The claim that there is a link between COVID mortality and some arbitrary common denominator within this very diverse group of 11 countries is just absurd. Luckily, the “experts” at Kiel Institute offer up another explanation for the differences in mortality figures: “mobility.” This shows how unlikely citizens are to keep their distance from one another. If mobility is higher, there will be more COVID cases and, consequently, more deaths. It makes sense.
But what does this have to do with the government of a country? The answer’s simple: Nothing. It's fake news. The connection between COVID and politics just sells better than the pandemic and “citizen mobility.”