PREPRINT: Association of country-wide coronavirus mortality with demographics, testing, lockdowns, and public wearing of masks

Background. Wide variation between countries has been noted in per-capita mortality from the disease (COVID-19) caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Determinants of this variation are not fully understood. Methods. Potential predictors of per-capita coronavirus-related mortality in 198 countries were examined, including age, sex ratio, obesity prevalence, temperature, urbanization, smoking, duration of infection, lockdowns, viral testing, contact tracing policies, and public mask-wearing norms and policies. Multivariable linear regression analysis was performed. Results. In univariate analyses, the prevalence of smoking, per-capita gross domestic product, urbanization, and colder average country temperature were positively associated with coronavirus-related mortality. In a multivariable analysis of 194 countries, the duration of infection in the country, and the proportion of the population 60 years of age or older were positively associated with per-capita mortality, while duration of mask-wearing by the public was negatively associated with mortality (all p<0.001). The prevalence of obesity was independently associated with mortality in models which controlled for testing levels or policy. International travel restrictions were independently associated with lower per-capita mortality, but other containment measures and viral testing and tracing policies were not. In countries with cultural norms or government policies supporting public mask-wearing, per-capita coronavirus mortality increased on average by just 8.0% each week, as compared with 54% each week in remaining countries. On multivariable analysis, lockdowns tended to be associated with less mortality (p=0.43), and increased per-capita testing with higher reported mortality (p=0.70), though neither association was statistically significant. Conclusions. Societal norms and government policies supporting the wearing of masks by the public, as well as international travel controls, are independently associated with lower per-capita mortality from COVID-19.

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