The Progression of COVID-19 Cases & Deaths by Country
Last updated on: 27/3/2019
In this post we look at the progression of COVID-19 cases and deaths per country, based on the novel coronavirus dataset produced by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The coronavirus has hit different countries at different times since the start of 2020. This makes it more difficult to compare countries directly, because the timelines differ. One popular way to deal with this, is to align the various timelines based on the number of days after a fixed point in an outbreak. In the case of COVID-19 infections, the fixed point is the day at which the 100th confirmed case occurred; in the case of COVID-19 deaths, the fixed point is the day at which the 10th death occurred. For example, Figure 1 shows the number of COVID-19 cases based on the number of days beyond the 100th case, for a selection of highlighted countries from Asia, Europe, and North America.
An important concept in understanding the progression of the virus is the doubling time of cases: that is, the number of days it takes for cases to double. Figure 1 highlights the growth-rates associated with a range of doubling times, from 1 day to 2 weeks, and shorter doubling times correspond to faster growth rates. It is clear that most countries suffer from very short doubling times (approximately 2 days) at least initially, but some countries have been able to significantly slow infection rates.
- Singapore and Japan acted quickly to contain their outbreaks, but without shutting down normal life. Japan’s high standards of public hygiene, bows and business cards instead hugs and handshakes, and an obedient public who respected calls for social distancing, no doubt helped. Singapore’s success in containing with the outbreak has been attributed to the government’s speed in imposing strict border controls, the meticulous tracing of carriers, aggressive testing, and a clear public communication strategy.
- China and South Korea were hit hard early on, missing the opportunity for immediate action, but by responding decisively both countries did manage to contain the virus, albeit using different approaches. China put the Hubei province, and the city ofWuhan, into lockdown in mid-January and business is now beginning to return to normal, two months later. South Korea avoided the need for a lockdown by implementing testing at scale, meticulous contact tracing, self-quarantine, and technology-mediated surveillance, to effectively stop the spread of the disease within 3 weeks.
- Unfortunately the rest of the world has been slower to respond and now the epicentre of the pandemic has shifted to Europe and the US. Today most countries have implemented the type of lockdowns that have proven to be successful elsewhere, and hopefully this will prove to be effective in the weeks that follow.
Figure 1. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for each country by the number of days beyond each country’s 100th confirmed case; based on the daily ECDC dataset (on 25/3/2020). The chart also shows the projected growth in cases for various doubling times.
Figure 2 charts the number of deaths for each country, based on the number of days beyond the 10th death. Note how Italy, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom have experienced even more deaths than China at the same stage in the outbreak. For example, Spain registered 2,000 cumulative deaths 14 days after its 10th death. That is twice as fast as China, which reached this dubious milestone 29 days after its 10th death. Indeed Spain and Italy have now surpassed China in terms of total deaths, albeit with a lower number of confirmed cases; either the fatality-rate is higher in Spain and Italy or their testing has not been as comprehensive as China’s, or both.
The virus has now hit dozens of countries and infection rates are climbing across the globe; at the time of writing there are almost 500,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths worldwide. Figures 3 and 4 show the number of cases and deaths on a country by country basis. Unfortunately, for most of these countries, the patterns we see are closer to those of Europe than Asia, but with more than a quarter of the globe in lockdown, there is hope that many countries will still be able to ultimately contain the virus and protect their citizens. Hopefully …
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The above analysis is based on a daily COVID-19 dataset produced by the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control. I am trying to maintain a listing of related datasets in another blog post. All code and data can be found on GitHub and new posts will be uploaded to Data in the Time of Corona on Medium. A special shout-out to the wonderful reporting by the many reputable news organisations around the world. In particular, the visualisations produced in this blog post have borrowed heavily from those used elsewhere and by the Financial Times in particular.