Scoring World Leaders’ Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak


Xi Jinping, China

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- After his government initially suppressed warnings about the outbreak’s severity, Xi claimed credit for locking down Hubei province and replaced local leaders. His success will depend largely on whether there’s a second wave of infections.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran

At the start of the outbreak, Iranian authorities made a show of solidarity with China and were slow to restrict international and domestic travel. Religious authorities in Qom, a pilgrimage site that was the epicenter of the Iranian outbreak, declined to restrict access to shrines. Iran’s missteps are reflected in the high number of government officials who have been infected, including about one-tenth of the nation’s 290-member parliament.

Moon Jae-in, South Korea

The government’s refusal to completely bar Chinese visitors sparked anger. Moon recovered by declaring “war” on the virus and instituting an aggressive and effective testing campaign. Some 210,000 tests (as of March 11) have left the country with one of the largest case totals—but also one of the lowest fatality rates.

Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore

Cases in the city-state surged to among the highest outside China in the early weeks of the outbreak. Prime Minister Lee’s communications struck a reassuring tone. The government laid out steps people could take to help prevent the spread of the virus and detailed the risks associated with infection. Singapore has taken stringent measures, including setting up quarantine facilities and contact-tracing cases.

Shinzo Abe, Japan

Not only could the virus tank Japan’s economy, it’s raising questions about whether the Summer Olympics will be canceled. As cases of Covid-19 mounted, Abe lurched from a relatively relaxed approach to restricting travel from China and South Korea and shutting down schools for a month.

Giuseppe Conte, Italy

Conte has drawn fire for his handling of the biggest coronavirus outbreak in Europe. In early March he bungled the announcement of a series of increasingly drastic measures to halt the virus. Ultimately, the government placed all of Italy under lockdown. The efficacy of these measures is still unclear, but they will tip an already weak economy into recession.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amanda Hurley at

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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