UPDATED April 3, 2020. Updated daily. The coronavirus, or COVID19, has swept around the world. However, not all countries have had the same experiences. Outcomes have varied by the number of cases, the rate of increase, and how countries have responded.
In this post, I present coronavirus growth curves for 14 countries and their per capita values, graph their new cases per day, daily coronavirus deaths, and describe how each country approached controlling the virus. You can see the differences in outcomes and when the effects of coronavirus mitigation efforts started taking effect. I also include the per capita values for these countries in a table near the end.
At this time, there is plenty of good news with evidence that many of the 14 countries have slowed the growth rate of new cases. However, one country is a notable exception because it has an accelerating rate while several other countries show troubling signs that they might be starting a phase of exponential growth.
About the Graph of Cumulative Coronavirus Cases
The graph below represents the cumulative growth of confirmed coronavirus COVID19 cases starting at around the 20th case for each of the following countries: Brazil, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, India, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and the United States. For China, I had to start with the 548th case given the data available. To facilitate the comparison between countries, I’ve lined up the countries so their 20th case occurs at the origin on the X-axis. Of course, their 20th cases didn’t happen on the same day but, by lining them up, we can compare growth rates between countries. The X-axis numbers represent the number of days since the 20th case, except for China. These data are current on April 2, 2020.
Data are provided by Johns Hopkins University and are available here.
For more information about these countries, read my post about Mortality Rates by Country.
Coronavirus Confirmed Cases Per Capita by Countries
Below are the per capita rates for confirmed cases in the 14 countries I cover in this post. Keep in mind that these are confirmed cases, as are all the numbers in this post. The true infection rate will be higher. These per capita values are based on the March 30th data. Countries that have an upward slope in the cumulative cases graph will have increasing per capita values over time.
|Country||Cases per 100,000|
Western Countries and the Coronavirus
On March 27th, Italy become the country with the 2nd highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases (86,498). Notably, Italy has started to slow the rate of new cases of COVID19. The news media has reported that Italians didn’t take the warning seriously early on. However, since then, Italy has implemented a nationwide lockdown. The little blip in Italy’s curve around day 19 is when they started the strict quarantine. Currently, all stores are closed except grocery stores and pharmacies. The situation has overwhelmed the medical resources, which has required Italian doctors to perform triage where they determine which severely ill patients should, and should not, get care based on the resources available.
The medical community believes that quarantines and lockdowns are most effective early on. Did Italy miss their opportunity to contain the virus? Will their curve eventually match China’s?
Italy’s graph of confirmed new cases shows that Italy has successfully flattened the curve. They’ve slowed down the rate of new cases. Notice how the graphs starts with each successive day seeing a larger increase in new cases. That trend reached a peak on March 21st with 6,557 new cases. Since that date, the number of daily new cases has had jagged decline. Hopefully, with more time, the rate will slow to a more manageable level. The number of daily coronavirus deaths has peaked on March 27th with 919 deaths. With the March 31st update, there’s evidence that the curve is flattening even further.
The difference between Italy’s peaks for daily cases and daily deaths is six days. That lag for reduced numbers of deaths is typical because it takes awhile for the lower number of new cases to reduce the number of deaths per day.
Italy has had 10 straight days without seeing that upward trend. While it’s not great that Italy is experience thousands of new cases daily, it’s much better than an exponential growth rate where each day brings a larger increase in cases. Holding the rate of increase constant is an improvement. In a nutshell, Italy seems to be experiencing a linear growth in new cases currently, which is better than the previous exponential growth. On the large cumulative cases graph, you can just barely see the difference in Italy’s curve, which begins on day 31. However, it’s easier to see on the daily new cases graph. It took 11 days for the Italy lockdown to start producing visible (barely) results. Italians probably are not feeling this improvement yet.
The United States is the first country to have over 100,000 confirmed cases. On March 26th, the United States became the country with the most confirmed cases of coronavirus. Confirmed cases are still growing exponentially with more new cases each day. The United States had a slow response to the virus and has had severe shortages of testing. While testing capacity increases, most people can’t be tested currently unless they pass through a screening process. There is no surveillance testing to test for coronavirus spread in asymptomatic people.
On the large cumulative graph, the United States appears to have an even worse trajectory than other countries. However, the United States has started restricting businesses, closing schools, and promoting social distancing a bit earlier than Italy relatively. On the other hand, the United States has had a notable shortage of testing kits, which is undoubtedly causing a substantial underreporting of confirmed cases. Additionally, lockdowns don’t cover the entire country. There’s a patchwork of different restrictions by state and city.
Unlike Italy, the U.S. is still experiencing exponential growth. In other words, the U.S. line on the cumulative chart continues to become steeper. In its graph for new cases of coronavirus, we still see an exponential growth rate where there are more new cases each successive day.
Will the more voluntary nature of social distancing be successful?
Unlike the other countries in this post, the United State’s rate of new confirmed cases continues to increase each day. Hopefully, the lockdown effects will kick in and slow it down!
Spain’s slow response to the coronavirus is similar to Italy’s. Currently, Spain has more new cases daily than Italy and confirmed cases are, therefore, growing more rapidly. Spain has been criticized as having a particularly slow response to the virus. Additionally, a soccer game (futball for non-Americans), between an Italian and Spanish team might have increased the spread much as Mardi Gras is being blamed for an explosive increase of cases in Louisiana, USA.
Like Italy, Spain’s lockdown has slowed the rate of new cases. Spain saw an increasing number of new cases daily until reaching the peak of 9,630 new cases on March 25. After that date, the rate of new coronavirus cases has declined.
The lag between Spain’s peaks for daily new cases and daily deaths is currently seven days and counting as we wait to see the decline begin. If Spain follows the same pattern as Italy’s, we should see the number of daily deaths declining any day now.
Germany has had a very proactive response to the virus and has aggressively tested for it. You can see Germany’s curve already flattening out. Germany reached a maximum number of new daily cases on March 27 with 6,933 cases. Since that date, the rate of new coronavirus cases have slowed down. However, in the last two days we’ve seen increasing numbers. Hopefully, coronavirus is not spreading faster in Germany! We’ll need to keep an eye on further developments.
Germany’s peak for new confirmed cases was only six days ago. Like Spain, we’re still waiting to see Germany’s decline in daily coronavirus deaths.
Up until recently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hasn’t taken the coronavirus seriously. The official policy of the United Kingdom was to rely on herd immunity kicking in after a sufficient number of cases. However, the government began taking the crisis more seriously, the UK imposed a lockdown starting on March 24th, and Boris Johnson tested positive for COVID19 on March 27. For UK’s curve on the cumulative graph, that lockdown began on day 27, which indicates that it took 27 days for the UK to go from 20 to 8077 cases. I’ve added the UK to the chart so we can track the effectiveness of its lockdown on the number of confirmed cases. Despite the late start, the UK’s curve isn’t as steep as other European countries on the chart. Does its geographic separation help?
Lancet, the respected medical journal, has described the United Kingdom’s response to the pandemic as a “national scandal.”
At the end of March, I had praise the United Kingdom on quickly slowing the rate of new cases despite their government’s slow start at taking it seriously. However, I might have spoken too soon. It had looked like the rate of new cases plateaued from March 27 – 31. However, the addition of the April 1st data brings a record increase of new cases at 4,384. It sure looks like new cases are starting to accelerate again.
Southern Hemisphere Countries and Coronavirus
The number of cases in the Southern Hemisphere has started to increase. Scientists have not confirmed that the coronavirus is seasonal. Seasonal viruses tend to spread more effectively in colder temperatures. Cases might have started growing because autumn has started in the Southern Hemisphere, and temperatures are cooling. Consequently, I’ve added Australia, South Africa, and Brazil to the graph so we can track developments in those locations.
Of the Southern Hemisphere countries that I’m tracking, I have the great concern for Brazil. On the cumulative cases graph, Brazil is following nearly the same curve as the United Kingdom to this point. However, in Brazil’s new confirmed cases per day graph, you can see a large increase on the last two days. Is that the start of exponential growth? Will each day see larger and larger numbers of new cases? Time will tell.
Asian Countries and the Coronavirus
Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan are all squished at the bottom of the chart and are hard to distinguish. These countries have tiny numbers of COVID19 cases because they haven’t experienced the exponential growth that occurred in other countries. South Korea had a period of sharp increase, but that has quickly leveled out. What did these countries do?
Previous experience with SARS, a coronavirus oubtreak in 2003, has taught these Asian countries how to act quickly and effectively. These countries enacted early travel restrictions, large-scale testing, contact tracing for confirmed cases, and aggressive quarantine rules. Additionally, the MERS coronavirus outbreak in 2015 exposed the problems that a lack of test kits will cause.
These policies contained the virus in Taiwan and Singapore and slowed the infection rate in South Korea. Western countries, and elsewhere, haven’t had this experience with SARS and MERS, which has hampered the effectiveness of their responses.
Below is South Korea’s graph of new coronavirus cases by day. South Korea is a great example of a country where the virus started to get a foothold, but then the country fought back and got it under control. You can see the rise in new cases, followed by a plateau, and decline. Currently, South Korea has about 100 new cases per day, which has been very consistent for several weeks. With more time, we can hope that the graphs of new cases for Italy, Spain, Germany, and the U.K. will have the long tail of very few cases that you can see below!
Japan has had a rather lax response to coronavirus. It has had a very low rate of testing and no social distancing measures until very recently. Japan was very hesitant to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games but eventually did so. However, their number of confirmed cases has remain low. Of course, the low testing rate, about 1200 per day, will help keep the numbers low. However, the daily number of new confirmed cases has started to rise a bit recently. We’ll keep an eye on Japan to see what happens next. There seems to be a slight upward trend.
What about China, where it all started? The number of cases of coronavirus in China is over 81,000 as I write this blog post.
China experienced a period of exponential increases in COVID19 cases, but that has since leveled out. China was criticized for initially responding slowly and even covering up the virus. However, beginning on January 23rd, China started severely restrictive lockdowns and quarantines on its cities. On the chart, China began its restrictive measure on day 1 of the graph when it had 548 cases. These measures were so restrictive and on such a large-scale that they have been described as being possible only in an autocratic society.
Despite these extreme measures, it took about 30 days and an additional 80,000 cases before the curve flattened out. That’s the cost of delaying!
I’ve just added India to the chart. They’ve started their 21 day lockdown and there is interest in tracking the number of confirmed cases.
What Happens Next Depends on You!
Graphing the data can be a surprisingly powerful technique for understanding complex problems. The line chart shows how countries have had very different experiences with the coronavirus. By linking the quarantine and testing practices to the different outcomes, we can see which approaches work and what happens when countries don’t implement these measures.
It’s uncertain whether Italy and the United States will match China in the number of cases and how quickly they might do so. There are undoubtedly other countries which are in the same general situation. While the future is uncertain, experts know that early, serious efforts are far more effective than late or halfhearted measures. Please take all the guidelines from your medical professionals seriously! COVID19 is serious business and can easily overwhelm medical systems if too many cases occur at the same time. We need to flatten those curves!
Read my post about the exponential growth of coronavirus and how it relates to hospital capacity. For other virus related information, please read my post about the effectiveness of flu vaccinations.
Stay safe out there! And, please follow all the protocols recommended and required by your local authorities!