Is the Coronavirus as severe as we think? It's too early to tell, but ...

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

The latest data from in Italy, China and other countries show that there is a strong possibility the trend line of new cases and new deaths is slowing. This means that the measures taken are having an effect, and if we are lucky the virus will “burn out”. 

Let’s start with a review of new cases. Many media are showing charts of cumulative numbers of coronavirus infections or cases. This is what cumulative cases or death charts look like:

They show an exponential or near-exponential growth rate, particularly when showing the global number of cases. This causes panic and despair. Rather than doing this, I’d like to look at the daily number of new cases, as this gives us a much clearer picture of what is going on. 

Let’s start with China. The Chinese figures of new cases show a clear spike on February 12th, receding dramatically from February 13th and thereafter. The death cases spike about a week later, on February 23rd. Today, the number of new cases and deaths are between 10-30 per day. There is some controversy over how China is counting its cases, but the overall trend is clear. 

Italy: On March 22 and 23, the number of new cases in Italy declined rapidly, as did the number of new deaths. It’s too early to tell, since on March 24th the new cases shot up again and remained stable into March 25th. But in general, the situation may be more positive than we hoped. 

Greece shows a very different virus transmission rate. There is no consistently upward trend (yet) similar to that seen in high risk countries like Italy or Spain. This may indicate that the measures in Greece have succeeded in limiting the spread of the virus. Or it may simply be too early to tell.