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2 Apr, 2020 17:09

Spain, Italy & UK stats suggest Covid-19 may be peaking in Europe already (even if the financial devastation is still to come)

Spain, Italy & UK stats suggest Covid-19 may be peaking in Europe already (even if the financial devastation is still to come)

With signs France and Italy may be near peak coronavirus, and with warmer weather on the way, the virus may soon run out of steam, even if economic carnage still lies ahead.

The phrase “flattening the peak” has become familiar to billions since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. But when, if ever, will this peak hit? And how will we recognise it when it does? Let’s investigate what we might term ‘peakonomics’...

In China – even in the city of Wuhan and the worst affected region of Hubei – the peak of their cases happened weeks ago and has been receding to practically nothing ever since. China’s biggest problem now is people coming from abroad, with new carriers of the virus arriving from overseas. But that astonishing turnaround owes everything to their unprecedented lockdown of over a billion people, and the government using every tool in their considerable arsenal to engineer a level of social control unheard of since the Middle Ages. This was not so much flattening the peak as swiftly crushing it.

In the UK, which recorded 569 deaths on Thursday and 3,846 new cases (up 13% from the day before), conventional wisdom seems to suggest that the peak of the virus is still a week or two away. It seems, however, that conventional wisdom has been saying that for at least a month. Perhaps the mythical peak is a mirage that can never be reached, like the spectral image of water in a parched desert. Not that anyone is anxious for more cases…

Changing trends

Italy and Spain have been in full-blown crisis mode for several weeks, at least in the worst-affected regions.

On Wednesday, Italy recorded its lowest death toll from Covid-19 for a week. There were 727 deaths, a sharp decrease from 837 the day before. Moreover, although the number of confirmed new cases represented a slight increase, the rate of increase is slowing towards zero, and all signs point to them being about to mount the crest of the wave and begin the long slide down the other side.

Spain is hot on Italy’s tail, and the country looks like it will begin to see fewer new cases and deaths a few days after Italy does. Spanish officials said on Wednesday that they were beginning to see a “trend change” in the coronavirus figures, which was confirmed by Thursday’s numbers. They showed a record one-day death toll of 950 – but the number of new confirmed cases rose by just 8%, compared to the regular daily rise of 20% recorded in the days leading up to March 25.

Officials in those countries are, of course, putting the good news down to their draconian lockdown measures and social distancing, and the more or less abandonment of economic activity has no doubt contributed – though the long-term toll these measures could take is another story. But it is well-known that viruses naturally burn themselves out, and eventually a slowdown was bound to happen, regardless of government action.

Also on rt.com European hospitals ‘running out’ of essential ICU meds for Covid-19, group warns

Incoming tidal wave

Overall, cases and deaths are still climbing at a considerable pace. The milestone of one million infected worldwide will soon be reached. Will every country in the world eventually reach an Italy-like crisis? Unlikely. Some look primed for a major catastrophe – the US foremost among them. Places like Iran and possibly France are also in the running to accelerate to such levels. And obviously, there is no telling how African countries will cope with the new virus, if it strikes with a vengeance there.

But hotter weather is coming, and the virus must run out of steam at some point. It has done its worst in some countries, and left others largely unscathed, at least so far. How much of a sting it has left in its tail will determine how the rest of the pandemic curves look from here on out.

When our leaders announced their lockdown measures, they justified them with the language of natural catastrophe. They warned of a tidal wave, a tsunami of coronavirus cases that would overwhelm hospitals and health services everywhere. Things will get worse before they get better, goes the mantra of the politician and the public relations-trained expert consultant. Only in hindsight will we be able to assess the truth of these claims.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.