Is COVID-19 Primarily a Disease of Wealthy Countries?

GDP and COVID-19: a Possible Correlation

April 7, 2020

last updated April 28, 2020

The data for the graphs and tables below come from these two pages at

COVID-19 cases by country

GDP (2017) by country

Together they suggest a correlation between countries with a high GDP and countries with a large number of COVID-19 cases. One usually expects epidemics to hit poor countries much harder than wealthy countries; but COVID-19 appears to be an exception.

Skip to April 8 addendum
Skip to April 10 addendum
Skip to graph of April 7, 2020
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Skip to table of April 28, 2020

I am very tempted to make the (somewhat frivolous) comment that COVID-19 must be a good Capitalist virus, going where the money is. (There! I made it.) But more seriously, I would expect that if I lived in Yemen amidst daily bombings, starvation and a cholera epidemic, I would not be too concerned about a little respiratory virus with at most a 5% mortality rate. So let's keep all this in perspective.

          Addendum, April 8:

Yemen has zero confirmed COVID-19 cases. (This, of course, does not mean there are none.)

Saudi Arabia has 2,605 confirmed cases and the United Arab Emirates has 2,076 cases. With help from the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been waging a brutal war against Yemen which has totally destroyed the country. Now they have called for a cease-fire so they can go home and fight the COVID pandemic.

Here's another interesting comparison:

Israel has 8,904 confirmed COVID-19 cases. By contrast, Palestine has only 254. Gaza, which is part of Palestine, has been living under almost complete lockdown since 2007, due to the Israeli blockade.

          Addendum, April 10:

I tried this using per capita data — very inconclusive results.

Intending to do this again in May — see how much the situation changes month to month.

Correlation coefficients have been added below graphs.

Here are some possible causes for the correlation noted above. (Note: I am not necessarily advocating for any of these):

1. People in wealthy countries tend to be more mobile and therefore better able to spread the virus.

2. More testing is carried out in wealthy countries.

3. Many people in poorer countries have enough problems staying alive and healthy already without worrying about a new virus with at most a 5% mortality rate.

4. Many people in wealthy countries tend to be lacking in social discipline and feel a sense of entitlement. E.g.: “Screw this social distancing crap, I gotta go do my thing.”

5. Genetics: Most (but not all) of the countries with a large number of cases per population size tend to be European or have large populations of European ancestry.

6. Perhaps this is simply random noise.

7. Poor countries may be less likely to report confirmed cases than wealthier countries. (added 4/21)
This is all I can think of now. I'll add more later, as other possible causes come to mind.

Correlation GDP v. COVID-19 Cases, Graph and Table, April 7, 2020



Correlation GDP v. COVID-19 Cases, Graph and Table, April 28, 2020