The last 18 months have left many of us wondering where the safest place is to live, work, raise children or retire, following a global pandemic that has wholly altered nations and how they operate.

According to a report on the world’s safest countries by Global Finance, the safest countries to live in right now are Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

As the world recovers from the global pandemic, determining the relative safety of each country is now more critical than ever. Among other GCC countries, Bahrain was ranked in 12th position, Kuwait at 18th and Saudi Arabia at 19th.

The Global Finance rankings are based on factors such as war and peace, personal security, and natural disaster risk, including the unique risk factors stemming from COVID-19.

The top-ranking countries are diverse geographically and are spread amongst Europe and Asia, and four of those are Northern European (Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Norway).

The remaining 11 out of 20 are primarily countries in the Middle East or Southeast/East Asia. Countries such as Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, and Belgium suffered greatly in the rankings because their governments handled the COVID-19 crisis poorly.

India was ranked as 91, Lebanon 118 and Yemen at 126 out of 134 countries according to the report, which also sources information from the World Economic Forum and the Global Institute for Peace. The worst countries to live in, according to the report, were Guatemala, Columbia and the Philippines.

With many countries now re-opening their borders following the easing of Covid restrictions, The Passport Index is another tool many individuals and government agencies use to check on global mobility and passport power rankings.

According to the Passport Index, the US administration’s nationwide vaccination program helped build confidence and boost the US passport, ranking 16 places to third. New Zealand is ranked as the most powerful passport as of June 2021, with the UAE coming in fifth place globally and the highest-ranking MENA nation on the index.

In the GCC, only the UAE saw a significant uptick, gaining eight places to fifth position. Other GCC nations remain in roughly similar positions in the rankings over the period: Bahrain (-5/45), Kuwait (-7/42), Oman (-4/49), Qatar (-6/40), and Saudi Arabia (-5/50).

The Passport Index’s Mobility Score is based on adding two key figures — the number of countries for which a passport has visa-free entry and the number it can obtain a visa on arrival. The top-performing passports on the index often show a correlation between a commitment by governments to openness or swift diplomacy between nations, as well as those who are better at managing the global COVID-19 crisis within their borders. These include the UAE (+11), Israel (+13), and the US (+16).

“It is safe to say that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, as we see more and more countries safely opening up their borders,” says Armand Arton, Founder and President of Arton Capital and the creator of The Passport Index.

Outside of the EU, the most significant moves in passport power were seen for Serbia (+12/24th), North Macedonia (+13/29th), and Albania (+12/32nd). On the other hand, the two major industrialised nations, outside of the EU — the UK and Norway — both dropped to fifth (-1) and sixth (-3) place, respectively.

Within the EU, despite the recent introductions of vaccine passports, movement in passport strength has primarily been static, with most changes moving only by a single ranking position in either direction.

As the world begins to open up once again, COVID-19 has most definitely presented a new challenge for governments around the globe which is not necessarily a bad thing. “Innovations are often born in times of crisis, and we are starting to see this happening in the travel industry as well, with the future of travel looking a lot different than before the pandemic,” added Arton.

However, as the world’s vaccination numbers steadily rise, we are also left with a lingering thought: How would the world cope with a future pandemic?

By Hermoine Macura-Noble
The first Australian English speaking News Anchor in the Middle East. She is also the Author of Faces of the Middle East and Founder of US-based 501c3 charity – The House of Rest which helps to ease the suffering of victims of war. For more from our Contributing Editor, you can follow her on Instagram, here.

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