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When the discussion turns to which countries have responded best to COVID-19 — and if nothing else, the pandemic frees up a lot of time for this debate — those most often mentioned are Taiwan, New Zealand and Vietnam. I would like to make a more surprising nomination: the United Kingdom. COVID-19 is a potential scourge to billions around the globe, so the pertinent question is which country has done the most to stop it.

At first glance, the U.K.’s performance doesn’t look great. It has one of the highest death rates per million, and the government’s initial response to COVID-19 was halting and contradictory. Its prime minister, Boris Johnson, contracted COVID-19 and was disabled for weeks. Nor are the British renowned for their love of mask-wearing.

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