Combatting COVID-19: the BRICS in comparative perspective

Working paper number: 464
Author: Nicoli Nattrass
Unit: SSU


This paper explores how Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the BRICS)fared in comparative perspective over the first year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the cross-country variation in COVID-19 deaths per million can be accounted for by demographic vulnerability(percentolder than 64),and basic health systems capacity (hospital beds per 1,000 people). China, along with other closed authoritarian systems had lower than expected death rates. By contrast, South Africa, India, and Brazil emerged as poor performersirrespective of whether political regime type and level of development werealso controlled for. These findings are consistent with analyses highlighting the role of poor national leadership in Brazil and India, and of government failure in South Africa.Also likely to have been important in shaping the epidemic is that three of the four ‘variants of concern’ listed by the World Health Organization were first identified in the BRICS. Developing local vaccine production capacity is likely to be crucial moving forward.

Publication file: Nattrass.pdf