WITH coronavirus infections heading toward 5 million, an interesting correlation between leadership style and virus numbers has appeared at the top of the COVID-19 hit parade.
Some hard-hit countries do have consultative leaders.
Germany, with long-standing Chancellor Angela Merkel, is the obvious example. Yet the heads of the four nations with the worst coronavirus outcomes all style themselves as "strongmen".
The United States, led by President Donald Trump, has more than 1.4 million cases, or some 30 per cent of the global total of 4.7 million.
Second, is Russia, led by the man the other strongmen look up to, President Vladimir Putin, with more than 290,000 cases.
Next is the United Kingdom, where public sympathy for Boris Johnson after his COVID-19 case is wearing thin.
It has 245,000 cases and more than 34,700 deaths at an extraordinary fatality rate of more than 14 per cent.
Close on the UK's heels, and destined to overtake it, is Brazil, led by Jair Bolsonaro, with 241,000 cases.
Like Russia, Brazil had very few infections before mid-March.
Now, it is one of the countries still in the steep section of the case curve, recording its worst day, by far, on Friday.
It will take a detailed analysis once the crisis is over to see if there are any provable correlations between political style and a nation's record in coping with the virus, but there are enough similarities between the four men to draw some interim conclusions.
All were publicly dismissive of COVID-19, either in conflict with their own health officials, or while news of the catastrophe unfolding in other nations should have been enough to jolt them into action.
Trump's clashes with his advisers are legion, while the Brazilian president sacked a popular health minister by Twitter last month and had his replacement resign on Friday.
There's a fifth strongman in this equation, China's Xi Jinping.
Although his authoritarian regime succeeded in shutting down the original Wuhan outbreak relatively quickly, Trump and other leaders have blamed China for either starting the virus or failing to tell the rest of the world, a tactic their opponents say is aimed at deflecting attention from their own shortcomings.
Against China's wishes, the World Health Organisation will almost certainly be tasked with an investigation.
Its findings, whatever they are, will become a vital piece in a geopolitical game of viral chess.
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