At the outset of 2020, the world looked on as China grappled with an outbreak that seemed be spiraling out of control.
Two months later, the situation is markedly different. After aggressive testing and quarantine efforts, China’s outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) appears to be leveling off.
Now, numerous countries around the world are in the beginning stages of managing their own outbreaks. March 15th, 2020, marked a significant statistical milestone for this, as confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China surpassed the Chinese total.
The tracker above, by Our World in Data, charts the trajectory of the growing number of countries with more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As the number of new infections reported around the world continues to grow, which countries are winning the battle against COVID-19, and which are still struggling to slow the rate of infection?
What’s Your National Infection Trajectory?
As of publishing time, 39 countries have passed the threshold of 100 confirmed cases, with many more countries on the cusp. By comparing infection trajectories from the 100 case mark, we’re able to see a clearer picture of how quickly the virus is spreading within various countries.
A rapid “doubling rate” can spell big trouble, as even countries with advanced healthcare systems can become overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases. This was the case in the Lombardy region of Italy, where hospitals were overloaded and an increasing number of medical staff are under quarantine after testing positive for the virus. Nearly 10% of COVID-19 patients in Lombardy required intensive care, which stretched resources to their breaking point.
Other countries are looking to avoid this situation by “flattening the curve” of the pandemic. In other words, preventing and delaying the spread of the virus so that large portions of the population aren’t sick at the same time.
Original concept by Drew Harris
While all the countries on this tracker are united behind a common goal – stamping out COVID-19 as soon as possible – each country has its own approach and unique challenges when it comes to keeping their population safe. Of course, countries that are just beginning to experience exponential growth in case numbers have the benefit of learning from mistakes made elsewhere, and adopting ideas that are proving successful at slowing the rate of infection.
Many jurisdictions are implementing some or all of these measures to help flatten the curve:
- Encouraging social distancing
- Encouraging working from home
- Closing schools and other institutions
- Placing hard limits on the size of crowds at events
The following chart explains why this last measure is critical to limiting the spread of the virus.
In scenario B above, which assumes just 20,000 active cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., there’s nearly a 50% chance an infected person will be attending a 10,000 person conference or sporting event. This is precisely the reason why temporary limits on crowd size are popping up in many jurisdictions around the world.
Direct losses due to canceled tech conferences alone, such as SXSW and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, have already surpassed the $1 billion mark, but despite the short-term economic pain of cancellations and decreased entertainment spending, the costs of business-as-usual could be incalculable.