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Coronavirus: Female leaders are far better at containing COVID-19

Written by Diane Archer

Thomas Deane reports for MedicalXpress that countries with female leaders tend to be healthier and more equitable, promoting social and environmental wellbeing. Female leaders around the world have also done a far better job of containing the novel coronavirus than their male counterparts.

Lorenzo Fioramonti from the University of Pretoria and Luca Coscieme from Trinity analyzed the performance of female leaders as compared to male leaders in 35 countries. They looked at COVID-19 data as well as data on inequality and basic needs. Here’s what they found:

  • Countries with female leaders experienced six times fewer COVID-19 deaths than countries with male leaders.
  • Female leaders have done a better job at containing the virus, with much lower numbers of daily deaths than countries in which men lead.
  • Countries with female leaders experienced a smaller number of days in which people died of COVID-19 than countries with male leaders, 34 v. 48 days.

Female leaders consulted with national health experts about how to respond to the novel coronavirus far sooner than male leaders. Female leaders also put in place measures to contain the virus earlier. Governments run by men tended to minimize early warning signs and put off responding to the crisis.

For example, in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed a lockdown and quarantine when there were only 102 COVID-19 cases in the country. In sharp contrast, Prime Minister Boris Johnson permitted large numbers of people to congregate when there were 700 cases in the UK. Similarly, in Denmark, Finland and Norway, which all have female-led governments, swift action was taken to contain the virus. In Sweden, which has a male leader, little action was taken to lock down the country, and Sweden has Europe’s highest death rate.

The researchers also found that countries with female leaders have done a better job of promoting public health and clean air over the last few years than countries with male leaders. These actions, which foster social and ecological wellbeing, might have helped to contain the spread of COVID-19. They also are bolstering the economic health of their countries.

The researchers expect that countries with female leaders are not likely to feel the economic recession as deeply as countries with male leaders. Countries governed by women are forecast to see a GDP drop of less than 5.5 percent as compared to countries governed by men, which are forecast to see a GDP drop of more than 7 percent.

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