Monday

27th Jun 2022

Infographic

Why coronavirus numbers tell complex stories

  • Determining the mortality rate of the virus remains an open question for many epidemiologists (Photo: SWIFT)

Numbers seem to be exact, but they can also be unintentionally misleading when it comes to the coronavirus epidemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has passed two million confirmed infections and 130,000 deaths worldwide, affecting over 200 countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

However, approximately 50 percent of the global burden of the coronavirus is in Europe, where almost a million cases have been registered and more than 100,000 people have died.

While the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind China, where the virus first emerged, Wuhan figures jumped up 50 percent last Friday, when authorities recounted 1,290 additional deaths of people who had died at home before reaching hospital.

Yet, the US is still in the acceleration phase and registers the largest number of coronavirus cases worldwide - and the hardest-hit city in the world is currently New York.

Successful lockdowns

"The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region," warned the European director of the World Health Organisation, Hans Kluge, last week as countries start to ease restrictions.

Italy and Spain are the most-affected countries in the region, followed by Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

Notably, Italy has managed to slow the rate of new cases of Covid-19 after more than a month under a nationwide lockdown, while the total of new confirmed cases indicates that Italy seems to have successfully flattened the curve.

The number of daily coronavirus deaths peaked on 27 March. Both daily new cases and deaths have declined since then.

Although Spain has been criticised for having a slow response to the pandemic, the most affected country in Europe seems also to be bending the curve.

Spain's peak day for coronavirus deaths was registered on 2 April - a week after daily deaths decreased by about 34 percent.

Likewise, improvements have been registered in countries such as Austria and Denmark, as well as in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Meanwhile, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès was obliged to explain last week why the country of 11.5m inhabitants presents one of the highest death tolls in Europe.

The Belgian government "made the choice of full transparency when communicating deaths linked to Covid-19," she said.

Blurry numbers

In fact, the total amount of Belgian fatalities includes also suspected deaths linked to the coronavirus even if they have not been proven by a test.

"In Europe, no country counts like others. We have the most detailed method," the Belgian health minister Maggie De Block told LN24 broadcaster.

There was a similar situation in Spain until last Friday, when the Spanish government decided that the regional authorities must register only the number of cases and deaths proven by tests.

Another complicating factor is the total number of infected people, as many are not tested and others do not present symptoms.

As a result, determining how deadly the virus is remains an open question for epidemiologists, who expect new waves that might last into 2022.

"Currently, we have a huge bias in the numbers coming from different countries - therefore the data are not directly comparable," the director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at the University of Ulm in Germany, Dietrich Rothenbacher, told the BBC.

"What we need to really have valid and comparable numbers would be a defined and systematic way to choose a representative sampling frame," he added.

At the same time, data indicates how European countries are trying to scale up their testing capabilities as part of their public health strategies.

Von der Leyen: new budget will be EU's corona response

The Commission argues that by using the next EU budget to leverage money guaranteed by member states, it could both circumvent the tricky issue of 'coronabonds' and allow larger overall investment.

Education in coronavirus times: trial and error

Most EU countries are organising distance e-learning to support students amid the coronavirus pandemic, but skills and opportunities are not the same among member states.

WHO urges caution as EU states soften lockdowns

Even though some countries in Europe are considering to ease lockdowns and restrictive measures, the European branch of the World Health Organization warns that the number of infections and death for coronavirus keeps growing in the region.

EU unveils plan to counter second Covid-19 wave

The EU Commission unveiled on Wednesday a set of guidelines to strengthen the bloc's response to a potential future surge of coronavirus infections - and warned a simultaneous seasonal-flu plus Covid-19 outbreak would place a considerable strain on health systems.

EU commission seeks to buy medical gear itself

EU crisis management becomes difficult when all member states are hit at the same time, commissioner Janez Lenarcic admitted. To avoid that, the commission wants powers to itself buy strategic reserves for member states.

Opinion

How industry watered-down new EU supply chain rules

The Commission fell hook, line, and sinker for the arguments of big business on the corporate due diligence directive — conflating rules and regulations with so-called 'red tape' and rebranding regulations as 'burdens' on business which should be scrapped.

Podcast

Against white feminism: European edition

Author Rafia Zakaria turned the feminist world upside down with her bestselling book Against White Feminism. She talks with the Brussels-based journalist Shada Islam about the prevalence of white feminist thinking in Europe — particularly France.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. Expect Czech EU presidency to downgrade V4 priorities
  2. Big polluters should have no role in planning EU energy policy
  3. G7, Nato, gas anxiety and Ukraine top This WEEK
  4. Death toll rising after thousands storm Spain's wall in Africa
  5. EU summit's uncertainty in the face of economic war
  6. Next winter's gas looms large at EU summer summit
  7. Ukraine becomes EU candidate after 120 days of war
  8. How to enhance EU cybersecurity

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us