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Proof that COVID-19 Data Accuracy depends on countries' development levels

April 27, 2020

If COVID-19 data accuracy did not depend on countries' levels of development, then there would be no correlation between the number of countries' confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and GDP per capita, the Human Freedom Index, or the Corruption Perceptions Index.

But here it is:

COVID-19 cases by GDP per capita.

A correlation coefficient values range from -1 to 1 and indicate relationships between two variables, where -1 is the absolute negative correlation, 0 is the absence of correlation, and 1 is the absolute correlation.

There is a strong statistically significant correlation between countries' confirmed COVID-19 cases and GDP per capita. The correlation coefficient is 0.8 (95% CI: 0.74 - 0.85), which wouldn't have existed if the data accuracy was the same in every country.

The chart includes only countries with a population of more than 300,000 people. Otherwise small countries like the Vatican would distort the values of confirmed cases per 100,000 people.

But even for the sample of all 197 countries, the correlation coefficient is 0.49 (95% CI: 0.38 - 0.59) that is still a strong statistically significant correlation.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people also correlate with the Human Freedom Index (by Cato Institute) and the Corruption Perceptions Index (by Transparency International).

COVID-19 cases by Human Freedom Index. COVID-19 cases by Corruption Perceptions Index.

For comparison, here's how the graph of coronavirus cases per 100K by total population looks like:

COVID-19 cases per 100K by total population.

The correlation coefficient is -0.04 (95% CI: -0.19 - +0.11) and the regression line is almost parallel to the abscissa axis, showing no correlation, as expected.

173 countries with a population more than 300,000 ranked by confirmed COVID-19 cases:

Rank Country Population Confirmed GDP per capita Human Freedom Index Corruption Perceptions Index
1 United States
325.1M
985,975
$63k
8.39
71
2 Spain
46.5M
226,629
$30k
8.22
58
3 Italy
60.6M
197,675
$34k
8.01
52
4 France
66.6M
162,100
$41k
8.25
72
5 Germany
83M
157,770
$48k
8.42
80
6 United Kingdom
65.1M
152,840
$43k
8.55
80
7 Turkey
82M
110,130
$9.4k
6.96
41
8 Iran
77.4M
90,481
$5.6k
5.29
28
9 Russia
146.8M
87,147
$11k
6.49
28
10 China
1.4B
82,830
$9.8k
6.11
39
11 Brazil
208.5M
63,100
$8.9k
7.05
35
12 Canada
35.7M
46,895
$46k
8.69
81
13 Belgium
11.2M
46,687
$48k
8.28
75
14 Netherlands
17.2M
37,845
$53k
8.49
82
15 Switzerland
8.2M
29,061
$83k
8.83
85
16 India
1.3B
27,977
$2k
6.8
41
17 Peru
30.4M
27,517
$6.9k
7.46
35
18 Portugal
10.6M
23,864
$23k
8.11
64
19 Ecuador
15.7M
22,719
$6.3k
6.7
34
20 Ireland
4.8M
19,262
$79k
8.48
73
21 Sweden
10.3M
18,640
$55k
8.48
85
22 Saudi Arabia
33M
17,522
$23k
5.66
49
23 Israel
8.9M
15,466
$42k
7.41
61
24 Austria
8.8M
15,274
$51k
8.42
76
25 Mexico
130.5M
14,677
$9.7k
6.94
28
26 Singapore
5.9M
14,423
$65k
8.1
85
27 Japan
127.1M
13,441
$39k
8.31
73
28 Chile
18.1M
13,331
$16k
8.11
67
29 Pakistan
197M
13,328
$1.5k
5.44
33
30 Poland
38.5M
11,761
$15k
8.02
60
31 Romania
19.6M
11,339
$12k
8
47
32 Belarus
9.5M
11,289
$6.3k
6.16
44
33 South Korea
51.1M
10,738
$31k
8.15
57
34 United Arab Emirates
9.3M
10,349
$43k
6.56
70
35 Qatar
2.2M
10,287
$69k
6.22
62
36 Indonesia
264M
9,096
$3.9k
6.81
38
37 Ukraine
42.6M
9,009
$3.1k
6.81
32
38 Denmark
5.8M
8,698
$61k
8.73
88
39 Serbia
7M
8,042
$7.2k
7.19
39
40 Philippines
101M
7,777
$3.1k
6.92
36
41 Norway
5.3M
7,527
$82k
8.61
84
42 Czech Republic
10.6M
7,408
$23k
8.3
59
43 Australia
23.4M
6,720
$57k
8.73
77
44 Dominican Republic
10.4M
6,135
$8.1k
6.6
30
45 Bangladesh
156.6M
5,913
$1.7k
5.8
26
46 Malaysia
31.6M
5,820
$11k
6.38
47
47 Panama
3.9M
5,779
$16k
7.53
37
48 Colombia
49.1M
5,379
$6.7k
6.78
36
49 Finland
5.5M
4,695
$50k
8.7
85
50 South Africa
57.7M
4,546
$6.4k
6.78
43
51 Egypt
94.8M
4,534
$2.5k
5.82
35
52 Morocco
36M
4,115
$3.2k
6.24
43
53 Argentina
44.9M
3,892
$12k
7.1
40
54 Luxembourg
614k
3,723
$117k
8.46
81
55 Moldova
2.6M
3,408
$3.2k
7.17
33
56 Algeria
41.3M
3,382
$4.1k
5.29
35
57 Kuwait
4.7M
3,075
$34k
6.6
41
58 Thailand
65.9M
2,931
$7.3k
7.11
36
59 Kazakhstan
18M
2,791
$9.8k
6.91
31
60 Bahrain
1.3M
2,647
$24k
7.15
36
61 Hungary
10M
2,583
$16k
8.11
46
62 Greece
10.8M
2,517
$20k
7.77
45
63 Oman
3.6M
2,049
$16k
6.3
52
64 Croatia
4.1M
2,030
$15k
7.46
48
65 Uzbekistan
32.4M
1,887
$1.5k
-
23
66 Iraq
33.4M
1,820
$5.8k
4.28
18
67 Armenia
2.9M
1,808
$4.2k
7.42
35
68 Iceland
357k
1,792
$73k
8.22
76
69 Afghanistan
34.9M
1,703
$521
-
16
70 Estonia
1.3M
1,647
$23k
8.44
73
71 Azerbaijan
10M
1,645
$4.7k
6.44
25
72 Cameroon
24.1M
1,621
$1.5k
5.7
25
73 Ghana
28.3M
1,550
$2.2k
7.21
41
74 Bosnia and Herzegovina
3.5M
1,516
$6.1k
7.27
38
75 New Zealand
4.9M
1,469
$42k
8.94
87
76 Lithuania
2.8M
1,449
$19k
7.94
59
77 Slovenia
2.1M
1,402
$26k
7.88
60
78 North Macedonia
2.1M
1,386
$6.1k
7.55
37
79 Slovakia
5.4M
1,381
$19k
8.29
50
80 Cuba
11.3M
1,369
$8.8k
-
47
81 Bulgaria
7.3M
1,348
$9.3k
7.78
42
82 Nigeria
190.9M
1,273
$2k
6.1
27
83 Ivory Coast
20.3M
1,150
$1.7k
5.95
35
84 Djibouti
850k
1,023
$3.1k
-
31
85 Guinea
11.6M
996
$879
5.68
28
86 Bolivia
11.1M
950
$3.5k
6.75
29
87 Tunisia
11.6M
949
$3.4k
6.1
43
88 Latvia
2M
818
$18k
8.16
58
89 Cyprus
1.1M
817
$28k
8.39
59
90 Albania
3M
726
$5.3k
7.68
36
91 Lebanon
4.5M
707
$8.3k
6.72
28
92 Niger
17.1M
696
$414
6
34
93 Costa Rica
4.9M
695
$12k
7.81
56
94 Kyrgyzstan
6.2M
695
$1.3k
6.65
29
95 Senegal
14.1M
671
$1.5k
6.29
45
96 Honduras
8.1M
661
$2.5k
7.13
29
97 Burkina Faso
19.2M
632
$715
6.84
41
98 Uruguay
3.4M
606
$17k
7.93
70
99 Sri Lanka
21.4M
557
$4.1k
5.69
38
100 Guatemala
15.5M
500
$4.5k
7.21
27
101 Georgia
3.7M
496
$4.7k
7.48
58
102 Palestine
4.7M
495
$3.2k
-
-
103 DR Congo
86.8M
459
$562
5.27
20
104 Malta
423k
448
$30k
8.42
54
105 Jordan
10.4M
447
$4.2k
6.59
49
106 Somalia
11M
436
$315
-
10
107 Taiwan
23.6M
429
$25k
7.79
63
108 Mali
18.5M
389
$900
6.07
32
109 Kenya
48.5M
363
$1.7k
6.61
27
110 Jamaica
2.9M
350
$5.4k
7.16
44
111 Mauritius
1.3M
332
$11k
8.18
51
112 Venezuela
28.5M
325
$16k
5.27
18
113 El Salvador
6.3M
323
$4.1k
7.4
35
114 Montenegro
622k
321
$8.8k
7.67
45
115 Tanzania
57.3M
299
$1.1k
6.37
36
116 Vietnam
94.7M
270
$2.6k
6.31
33
117 Equatorial Guinea
1.2M
258
$10k
-
16
118 Sudan
40.5M
237
$977
4.44
16
119 Paraguay
6.8M
228
$5.8k
7.02
29
120 Maldives
345k
214
$10k
-
31
121 Congo
5.3M
200
$2.1k
5.55
19
122 Rwanda
12.2M
191
$773
7
56
123 Gabon
1.7M
176
$8k
5.79
31
124 Myanmar
53.3M
146
$1.3k
4.81
29
125 Brunei
418k
138
$32k
6.66
63
126 Ethiopia
105M
124
$772
5.33
34
127 Liberia
4.7M
124
$677
6.6
32
128 Madagascar
22.9M
124
$528
6.69
25
129 Cambodia
15.1M
122
$1.5k
7.22
20
130 Trinidad and Tobago
1.3M
116
$17k
6.81
41
131 Cape Verde
546k
106
$3.6k
7.4
57
132 Togo
6.3M
98
$679
5.67
30
133 Sierra Leone
7.6M
93
$534
6.24
30
134 Zambia
17.1M
88
$1.5k
6.67
35
135 Bahamas
377k
80
$32k
7.97
65
136 Uganda
42.9M
79
$643
6.4
26
137 Mozambique
25.8M
76
$499
6.14
23
138 Guyana
800k
74
$5k
6.68
37
139 Haiti
10.3M
74
$868
7.04
20
140 Benin
10M
64
$902
6.85
40
141 Libya
5.7M
61
$7.2k
4.98
17
142 Eswatini
1.4M
59
$4.1k
6.11
38
143 Guinea-Bissau
1.5M
53
$778
5.97
16
144 Nepal
29.4M
52
$1k
6.83
31
145 Chad
11M
46
$728
5.23
19
146 Syria
19.8M
43
$2k
5.34
13
147 Eritrea
3.5M
39
$811
-
24
148 Mongolia
3.1M
38
$4.1k
7.17
37
149 Malawi
18.6M
34
$389
6.68
32
150 Zimbabwe
14.1M
31
$2.1k
4.96
22
151 Angola
29.8M
26
$3.4k
5.02
19
152 East Timor
1.2M
24
$2k
6.41
35
153 Botswana
2M
22
$8.3k
6.81
61
154 Laos
6.8M
19
$2.5k
6.2
29
155 Central African Republic
5M
19
$476
5.58
26
156 Belize
375k
18
$4.9k
7.37
-
157 Fiji
881k
18
$6.3k
7.46
-
158 Namibia
2.3M
16
$5.9k
6.97
53
159 Nicaragua
6.2M
13
$2k
7.22
25
160 Burundi
10.9M
11
$272
5.7
17
161 Suriname
539k
10
$6.2k
7.19
43
162 Gambia
1.9M
10
$716
6.52
37
163 Papua New Guinea
7.3M
8
$2.7k
6.99
28
164 Bhutan
754k
7
$3.2k
6.85
68
165 Mauritania
3.5M
7
$1.2k
5.52
27
166 South Sudan
12.6M
6
$1.1k
-
13
167 Yemen
26.2M
1
$944
5.4
14
168 North Korea
24.9M
0
$1.7k
-
14
169 Solomon Islands
561k
0
$2.1k
-
44
170 Tajikistan
8.9M
0
$827
6.64
25
171 Turkmenistan
5.1M
0
$7k
-
20
172 Comoros
735k
0
$1.4k
-
27
173 Lesotho
2.2M
0
$1.3k
6.16
41

Okay, but what does it all mean?

It proves that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in each country is literally what the country has managed to detect.

But little it says about the actual numbers, especially in developing countries, as testing policies and capabilities vary greatly.

So:

  1. It would make little sense to blame countries solely for being at the top of the infected list, as it's like blaming for being transparent and capable.
  2. Keep in mind while comparing that accuracy of the data depends on the level of a country's development.

Compare COVID-19 statistics of 197 countries