The most reliable information coming from all countries is the number of deaths from the COVID-19 virus. The actual numbers for cases and recoveries generally exclude the milder cases that may go untested and unreported. As the death numbers increase with time, it is possible to get a better idea of what is happening and what to expect.
Analysis is based on data published by FPM.news and partners The Nurses Without Borders.
Melissa Hemingway with Guest Author, Al Manzer, investigative analyst.
The sections below refer to graphs showing death trends on logarithmic scale for countries having more than about 100 deaths. The data has been downloaded from the website daily since early February. The timeline for each graph is 9 weeks. The graphs are shown for 3 continents. This includes four countries in North America, three in South America and 17 for Europe. Africa and Asia are excluded for now because most countries do not yet exceed 100 deaths.
1a: Death trends for North American countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. Brazil and South Korea trends are included for reference.
North America Death Trends
Chart 1a above shows the trends for USA, Canada, Mexico and Dominican Republic. Both USA and Canada and to some extent Mexico have similar trends starting at different times. The trend for Dominican Republic started to flatten by about the end of March after most countries introduced laws, to some extent, for social distancing and self isolation (let’s call it “public restrictions” for lack of a better term).
1b: USA death trend displaced by 15 days to coincide with the Canada curve. The vertical orange line is the amber alert date for social distancing.
Chart 1b shows that if the USA trend is superimposed on Canada’s trend, by moving the curve forward by 15 days, it lines up almost exactly with Canada up until April 6. For example, the number of deaths on April 6 was about 280 in Canada, and 279 in the USA on Mar 21 (15 days earlier).
On Apr 7, 4 days after public restrictions became law (at least in Ontario), the Canadian death trend began diverging away from the American curve. The rate of increase for the clinically diagnosed cases (not shown) also changed direction on April 5, one day after the new law was introduced.
As of April 13, the Canadian death toll was about 1500 less than expected had the curve continued to follow the American’s curve. The two curves continue to diverge.
This finding tends to suggest that the public restrictions and the increased use of masks are working to flatten the curve and to save lives in Canada (and elsewhere).
South America Death Trends
2: Death trends for South American countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. South Korea trend is included for reference.
Chart 2 shows the death trends for Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. The main observation here is that the COVID-19 virus is active during the warm summer months in the southern hemisphere. It is difficult to conclude that it is less aggressive than in the winter months in the northern hemisphere.
The extent of curve flattening could be due to some extent on public restriction laws. One important note is that the initial outbreak of the virus in Brazil was caused by a citizen returning home after a trip to Italy (source Wikipedia).
Europe Death Trends
3: Death trends for European countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. South Korea and Brazil trends are included for reference.
Figure 3 shows the death trends for 17 European countries hard hit by the COVID-19 virus. With the exception of the USA, Italy, Spain, France and England have the highest number of deaths in the world. Most European countries now show signs of curve flattening.
4: Death trends for European countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. Countries with deaths starting before early March are displaced to coincide with Italy’s curve to show when curve flattening started. South Korea trend is included for reference.
Figure 4 shows that the death curves for 8 of the 17 countries coincide with Italy’s curve after shifting them about 18 to 25 days towards the Italian curve (ie, early to mid March). It is interesting to note that:
- Italy, France and England have essentially the same trend, except Italy’s curve started to flatten about 2.5 weeks ago (end of March) after the Chinese airlifted equipment including ventilators, medical supplies, masks, etc. France and England curves coincide almost exactly with each other and appear to be poised to overtake Italy. France and England show little evidence of curve flattening.
- Six more countries (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal and Austria) have curves that started to diverge or flatten relative to Italy during March.
- Deaths started taking place near the end of March for the remaining seven countries (Ireland, Romania, Denmark, Poland, Norway, Finland and Estonia). All have death curves that flattening relative to Italy’s curve, possibly due to implementing various degrees of public restrictions. The flattening appears to have the same curvature as South Korea which is also shown on the graph.
- Spain’s death trend does not fit the pattern for the other European countries. It had the steepest death rate of all European countries. Fortunately, it shows some degree of flattening starting in early April.
- Unlike the common flu virus, the COVID-19 virus is showing no sign of going dormant during the warmer summer months. The less aggressive trends in the southern hemisphere may be due in part to action taken by governments to implement lockdown, and personal restrictions.
- The amber alert issued In Ontario in March and likely elsewhere in Canada, to restrict personal movement and gatherings probably caused the death curve for Canada to diverge away from the USA curve, saving about 1500 lives as of April 13. Continued lockdown measures will likely continue to save even more lives.
- If the South Korean death trend is any indication of how curve flattening can evolve, then the death curve should flatten in another 4 weeks or so for most countries. South Korea provides a good example for dealing with future pandemics.
- The death curve for the USA is unique and is showing little evidence of flattening.
- As the number of deaths increase in countries located near the equator, it may be possible to determine if climate, culture and dietary differences play a role in the death trends. For example, Pakistan and India which have about 15% of the world’s population, have relatively low death trends. The two countries are isolated from each other, share the same climate and have similar high population densities especially in Karachi and New Delhi. Their dietary differences might play some role in a patient’s survival.
- Several highly populated countries in the Pacific continue to have low death trends. It may be useful to review these trends.
Left to right
Figure 1a: Death trends for North American countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. Brazil and South Korea trends are included for reference.
Figure 1b: USA death trend displaced by 15 days to coincide with the Canada curve. The vertical orange line is the amber alert date for social distancing.
Figure 2: Death trends for South American countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. South Korea trend is included for reference.
Figure 3: Death trends for European countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. South Korea and Brazil trends are included for reference.
Figure 4: Death trends for European countries that had more than 100 deaths on April 13. Countries with deaths starting before early March are displaced to coincide with Italy’s curve to show when curve flattening started. South Korea trend is included for reference.
Statistical COVID-19 Updates
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These are the infections of countries reporting over 1000 cases based on clinical diagnostics and RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.
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