Coronavirus: eight European countries are now “over the hump!”

I’ve been doing some more playing with the new-cases figures for coronavirus. I took the raw figures since March 17th from for the following countries: Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Denmark. I left out France, because of their recent data issues. I used Excel to smooth the figures over 7-day periods (so e.g. for March 20th I averaged the figures from March 17th to 23rd inclusive). I chose 7 days, because that is roughly the period of the “wobble” I saw in many countries’ data when I first looked into the detail a few days ago.

I came up with some interesting results. The countries divided clearly into three groups:

  • Eight in which the smoothed new cases have already peaked and are on a downward trend: Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Norway.
  • One (Netherlands) where smoothed new cases have only very recently peaked, and it’s not clear whether or not that will be the final peak.
  • Four in which the smoothed new cases have not yet peaked: UK, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark.

For the first two groups, I worked out by how many per cent per day the numbers have been falling since the peak. I took the latest smoothed number of cases (dated 3rd April, because that’s the last day for which I have a full 3 days of following data), divided by the peak number of cases, then took the Nth root, where N is the number of days between the peak and 3rd April, and converted the result to a percentage decay per day. My Excel formula was:

=ROUND((1-EXP(LN(<latest count>/< count at peak>)/<number of days since peak>))*100,2)

Obviously, the Netherlands was an outlier on the low side. Of the remainder, six all showed a decay rate between 1.8% and 2.8% per day: Germany 2.79%, Switzerland 2.52%, Spain and Italy both 2.25%, Belgium 2.03%, Portugal 1.8%. If I take the Spanish and Italian figure as representative, that corresponds to a half-life of 30 days for new cases of the virus.

But in some places, it’s better than we thought. Norway is showing a decay rate of 3.55% per day, and Austria a whopping 7.25% per day. Indeed, the smoothed new Austrian cases per day are already down very nearly to half of what they were at their peak on 25th March.

Whatever the Austrians have been doing to combat this virus, seems to be working. They did quarantine one particular town which was a big source of infection, which as far as I know no-one else has done. And apparently, they have mandated that face-masks are worn in stores; but that only started yesterday, so can’t have had any effect on these figures. So why, I wonder, has the Austrian experience been so much less bad than anyone else’s? Inquiring minds want to know, and to apply that knowledge.

Indeed, the Austrians, and the Danes too, have very recently announced that the restrictions are to be relaxed over the next few weeks. For Europeans it looks as if, as Winston Churchill famously said after the battle of El Alamein: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”


  1. Of course the mortality rate will flatten out. That’s because the virus infects the most vulnerable and immunocomprised first, thus the rate is exponential, then it slows as it exhausts these.

    Thus, the virus will not go on infecting and killing people exponentially forever. It can’t. Common-sense should tell you that it can’t.

    I’m thick and even I can figure that out.

    This whole thing is endlessly tedious. An hysterical media controversy over some cheating scandal in pro level tiddlywinks would be more interesting.

    I expect next the government will be offering the following announcements:

    The Pope is Catholic, though there are dissenters who regard him as anti-Catholic.

    In order to respire, one must breath in and breath out, then breath in and breath out again, then repeat ad infinitum.

    Flu can be caught and causes you to cough a lot.

    Latin was spoken in Latium.

    Some people due of flu. Some people don’t. Some people of other things.

    Everybody dies.

    Bears live in the woods and forests of North America and Eurasia and lack access to refined toilet facilities.

    No doubt there are more razor sharp insights in the offing from our masters.

  2. Again I have to say: woah, Tom. What I’m doing is analyzing the figures I have. Whether those figures are real, or simply made up by a master class (and I take no formal position on that issue yet), they’re the best I have. But there are good reasons to suppose that they’re more real than fake; because they come from many different sources, and some of those sources are less dishonest than others.

    As to your first paragraph, you’re right. It’s called the “Gompertz curve.” First exponentially up, then almost a straight line for a while, then flattening off. The stuff I’m analyzing is the first derivative of that curve – the differences between the cases on successive days.

    Where are we on the curve, right now? That’s a very serious question, to which I’m looking for an answer. Personally, I suspect this particular virus has been in Europe a lot longer – months, or even years – than anyone has told us. In which case, the cases per day will fall off faster than most people predict. And the restrictions will prove to have been a lot of pain for no gain. But I don’t claim to be an epidemiologist.

    • I’m not educated and I know nothing about maths (albeit I did achieve the top grade at school, many many years ago), but even somebody as dense as me can see intuitively that this is all wrong.

      With due respect, common-sense is superior to mathematical insight. I don’t need to wait for the data. I can see that there is an ulterior agenda at work. My initial view is that this is a controlled collapse of the economy and an opportunity to seize assets at undervalue.

      Basically, we’re witnessing daylight robbery. If my posts seem hysterical, it’s because I am outraged at the infringement of liberty and economic rights. I’m not sure where that leaves libertarianism, but at the moment my leaning is towards the view that what is now happening, if anything, reinforces the case for libertarianism – but of a particular sort.

      There is now the chance for some interesting conversations on here in the future.

      • Tom, I don’t disagree with your analysis. It’s certainly worth considering as a hypothesis. And you are only “thick” in the same sense in which I am a “thick” libertarian; I see far more in an ethical code of civilized behaviour than merely eschewing physical aggression. You should never let yourself feel inferiority, or guilt for anything, without first evaluating the evidence. That is where common sense and “mathematical insight” meet.

        For the moment, though, I prefer to continue on my course of seeking “the facts, the whole facts, and nothing but the facts.”

  3. The inimitable Neil Lock, ladies and gentlemen!
    I’m glad to see more of these conversations happening. Bit off topic…. how ever did you fall in with this lot? I suspect that you have entered the company of rogues, my friend! Why these are surely miscreants of an order greater than humble WB 🙂

    • Oh, my Burghal friend, I’ve been “in with this lot” since decades before WB even existed. They need a rogue like me to keep them “straight!”

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