Country progress to 9 May in controlling COVID-19 epidemics

I downloaded the latest COVID-19 data for reported deaths and confirmed cases from Johns Hopkins this morning to see whether the data supports the relaxation of social isolation that is starting to happen in many countries. The USA now has 1.35 million confirmed cases (just under 1/3 of the global total) and 80,323 deaths (28% of the global total) and the trends are quite different for New York and the rest of the USA, as shown in the plot below. So I have done separate plots for New York and USA excluding New York in the following plots.

Daily deaths per million (dark blue line) and confirmed cases per 100,000 (red line).

The plots below show smoothed death rates (per million) and case rates (per 100,000) up to 9 May using simple moving averages. Inspired by some plots on I’ve organized the countries into three groups:  those who have controlled the epidemic, those who are partway there (deaths are coming down, but not yet approaching zero) and those that need to take further action to turn things around. I excluded countries with population less than 1 million.

There are many more deaths and cases than recorded in this dataset. For countries with good data systems, excess deaths in the last two months is around 50 to 60% higher than confirmed coronavirus deaths, and the under-reporting is almost certainly much higher in most developing countries. However, these data probably provide a reasonably indication of the epidemic trends, at least in countries with reasonable testing levels and good data systems.

The final graph shows the top 20 countries in terms of deaths per million population, and their epidemic status. As to whether I’ve grouped the countries appropriately, there are a number where its debatable which group they should be in, and a few days more data may clarify what progress is occurring.

* Since almost all the deaths for China are in Hubei Province (Wuhan etc), I’ve used the population of Hubei rather than that of total China to calculate rates.

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3 Responses to Country progress to 9 May in controlling COVID-19 epidemics

  1. Pingback: COVID-19: light at the end of the tunnel for some countries | Mountains and rivers

  2. Joeri says:

    Dear Colin,
    Thanks for your informative articles about Covid-19.
    As you mentioned there are many more deaths and cases than recorded in the official data.
    I was wondering if you could make more realistic graphs and estimations using the excess mortality instead of the reported deaths and adjust for the untested cases by using the preliminary results from antibody studies that have been posted by a few countries. I think these results would be very interesting since they can compensate for the lack off testing. Although you might still need to compensate a bit for the number of test being taken compared to the positives.

    I know EUROMOMO keeps track of excess mortality for many European countries and there was a very interesting article in the NewYorkTimes about “Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Outbreak” where they showed the large differences with the reported numbers.

    I’m from The Netherlands myself and a few weeks back they were one of te first countries that posted results from a large antibody studie on blood-donors. At the time about 3% of the test group had antibodies (RIVM, Sanquin) and if this was accurate for the entire country it would mean the number of cases was 18 times higher than the reported cases at that time.

    I’m sure some prediction models form organisations like the WHO or ECDC will use this kind of data, but I haven’t been able to find any online. At the same time many sites draw false conclusions from the available data and post things like case fatality rates between 2 – 15 % based on the John Hopkins or WHO data.

    I hope your interested in making some graphs with this data or know where I can find them. I think It could show some more realistic trends and help the countries improve their models. It worries me a lot how many important decisions seem to be made on deeply flawed models.

    Kind Regads,

    • colinmathers says:

      Joeri, there are several academic groups investigating the estimation of excess mortality and what that might tell us about true COVID-death rates, as well as changes in death rates from other causes (perhaps lower road traffic deaths and higher deaths from some causes as people avoid going to hospitals). There are not many countries that release death registration statistics very fast for recent time periods, so its difficult to do this for more than a small number of countries (as the NY Times article did). I think there are now quite a few antibody surveys underway, and again, hopefully this will help to give a clearer picture of total cases. I’ve not been chasing these types data, because there are so many people already doing that, particularly WHO and some of the academic groups already modelling the pandemic. Hopefully better information and graphs will become more available soon. Thanks for your comment and suggestions.

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