Bretschger, L., Grieg, E., Welfens, P. J., & Xiong, T. (2020). COVID-19 infections and fatalities developments: empirical evidence for OECD countries and newly industrialized economies. International Economics and Economic Policy, 1-47.
This paper presents empirical results on coronavirus infection and fatality rates from cross-country regressions for OECD economies and a sample of middle- and high-income countries. We include environmental, economic, medical, and policy variables in our analysis to explain the number of corona cases and deaths per million. We find a significant positive impact of local air pollution on infection rates in the whole sample and on fatality rates for OECD countries. Obesity rates have a positive effect on cases and deaths across the different estimation equations. The strategy of aiming to achieve herd immunity has a significant positive effect on infections as well as on death rates. The first affected countries have significantly higher mortality rates, revealing the lack of experience and medical capacity to deal with the pandemic in an initial phase. Postponing – and fighting – the pandemic could save lives in many countries and generate considerable economic benefits. Other medical and policy variables discussed in the public sphere do not show a significant impact in the regression analysis. Our results suggest that improving air quality and fighting obesity helps reduce the negative effects of a coronavirus pandemic significantly. Policy options for fighting a second epidemic wave should take into account the results from this study in order to optimize global epidemic policy.