The Lancet  |  February 13, 2020

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Are autocratic states such as China better equipped than their more democratic counterparts to respond to disease outbreaks? On Dec 31, 2019, China alerted WHO to an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown cause in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. The epidemic quickly spread, with cases of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) confirmed throughout China and elsewhere in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. The Chinese Government’s forceful response has drawn praise from global health officials. Scholars and health leaders have long debated whether democracy improves, hinders, or is immaterial for public health. Does this signal an authoritarian advantage in tackling outbreaks?

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