COMPARE: How are countries across Europe faring in the battle against Covid-19?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
COMPARE: How are countries across Europe faring in the battle against Covid-19?

This selection of charts show the state of the coronavirus pandemic in countries across Europe almost a year since the continent recorded its first fatality and as the death toll hits 500,000 in the EU.


More than 500,000 people have officially died of Covid-19 in the European Union (789,310 in Europe as a whole), according to a tally compiled by AFP on Wednesday.
The 35m confirmed cases seen across Europe rank it second only to The Americas (North and South America), with 47m cases as the worst hit of the World Health Organisation's six regions, according to its Covid-19 dashboard.
The situation in Europe, has nonetheless improved in some of the continents worst-hit countries over the past month, with cases falling off overall since the start of January, although several countries countries have been hit by rising cases or even a third wave, keeping the case rate for the bloc stubbornly high. 
These interactive charts (which may take a few seconds to load) from Our World in Data shed some light on how the countries covered by The Local's network have been faring. 
You can extend the blue time bar and even add more countries if you wish.
1. Daily new confirmed cases
The chart below shows a rolling seven-day average for new Covid-19 infections.

The most obvious change since The Local's early January charts overview, has been the dramatic decline in daily new confirmed cases in the UK  since the end of the first week of January, partly following the lockdown imposed on January 6th and perhaps also showing early effects from the rapid vaccination rollout. 


Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland have all also reported declines from their second wave peaks, while France and Spain are the only two countries covered by The Local's network so far to have experienced a rise in infections since January.

This perhaps reflects France's decision to come out of lockdown relatively early on December 15th, and Spain's decision not to impose a second lockdown at all.

France has sought to keep down rates with a 6pm nationwide curfew and the continued closure of restaurants, bars and other venues. French President Emmanuel Macron has so far resisted imposing a third national lockdown despite pressure from hospital chiefs whose wards and intensive care units are being stretched once again.

In Italy a nationwide curfew is still in effect from 10 pm to 5 am and travel between regions is prohibited, but restaurants and bars are allowed to open until 6 pm.

Spain saw a surge in infections at the start of the year, with health officials blaming an easing of restrictions over the Christmas holidays.   

Since then, the incident rate has started to come down as regional governments, which are in charge of health care, have cracked down.  

Measures imposed include 10 pm curfews, the closure of bars and restaurants and bans on leaving or entering a region. The restrictions have helped to flatten the virus curve.

When you compare the infection rate to the size of population, the chart (as seen below) looks slightly different.

The high number of cases per capita Sweden suffered at the start of January stands out, as does the rapid decline in cases after the government imposed its toughest restrictions yet, with distance learning for 13-year-olds and up, and a new pandemic law empowering the government to fine shops and gyms for the first time. 

The per capita chart also highlights the extent of the third wave in Portugal - which saw cases rocket upwards in January -- and in Spain, which recorded more cases per capita at the end of January than it did even at the peak of its second wave in November. 


Denmark, which peaked a few weeks earlier on December 20th, has seen the number of cases fall from one of the highest to one of the lowest per capita rates in Europe,  after the lockdown imposed on Christmas Day was extended due to fears about the UK and South African Covid-19 variants. 

Germany, where the second wave peaked a few weeks before the UK on Christmas Eve, shows a more gentle decline, with a short post-Christmas bump in case numbers. 

Almost everything has been closed in Germany apart from essential shops since December, households are only supposed to meet with one other person and most schools are closed. 

Despite the declining rates, the government is likely to extend most measures until mid-March out of fear of the UK and South African Covid-19 variants. 

Austria and Switzerland both had their second-wave peak in mid-November, since when case rates have fallen rapidly, with only Switzerland experiencing a small bump after the festive season.
Before Christmas Austria imposed a 24-hour stay-at-home order, mandatory quarantine at border, and closed most shops, bars and venues, only starting to wind back these measures on February 8th - much to the annoyance of neighbouring Bavaria.
Switzerland ended its light-touch approach on October 28th, when the government announced new restrictions which were then followed by tighter restrictions in most cantons. It closed all non-essential shops at the start of January, but has never gone so far as imposing a second-wave lockdown. 
And the chart looks like this in map form, showing the comparatively low level of infection in all countries covered by The Local, with the European hotspots now in Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Montenegro. Of countries covered by The Local, Spain France and Sweden have the highest rates.
(You need to change the drop-down menu from World to Europe). 
2. Cumulative confirmed infections
Since our last update at the start of January, Spain has overtaken Italy as the country with the second highest number of cumulative infections in The Local's network. 
France still has by the far highest number of confirmed cases, although the soaring rates in the UK pushed it ahead at the end of December. 
Much, however, depends on testing policies and capacity. In all countries the number of confirmed cases is lower than actual cases due to limits in testing capabilities. 
3. The change in infections over the last two weeks
This chart shows the change over the last two weeks in the number of confirmed infections. So those countries coloured blue are where the pandemic is receding, with the darker the shade reflecting the bigger drop in infections.
Those in shades of red are where infections have increased over the last 14 days.
Here you can see very clearly the recent fall in the number of cases in every country covered by The Local except France, which has seen a very small increase.   
(You need to change the drop-down menu from World to Europe). 
Below is a similar chart but looking at change in infection rates in countries based on population size (again, change the menu to Europe). 
4. Share of population who have received first dose of vaccine 
The mark of success for a country has shifted somewhat this month from keeping infections low to vaccinating as many people as possible. 
Here Denmark is far ahead of the other countries covered by The Local's network, with close to 6 percent of the population having received the first dose. 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that all the countries are receiving their vaccines under the same EU programme, the rest of the countries are grouped closely together, with Austria, the laggard, having vaccinated just above 3 percent and Spain, the runner-up to Denmark, having vaccinated 4.5 percent. 


Sweden and Switzerland are the poorest performers when it comes to providing up-to-date vaccination data, with the most recent data from Switzerland about a week old and from Sweden about five days old. 
The UK, unconstrained by the European Union's collective buying, starting earlier, and stretching out the space between doses, is far ahead, with close to 20 percent of the population having received their first dose. 
5. Average of daily deaths 
This chart shows the countries currently suffering the highest death rates over the last seven days with the UK still ahead of other countries with an average of over 800 a day.
What stands out is how much the fall in the daily death rate has lagged the fall in infections seen in many countries, with the death rate in counties such as Italy, Sweden and Denmark still close to the highs seen in late December, despite quite significant falls in reported new cases. 
The death rate in Germany has come slowly down from the highs seen at the start of January.
France and Spain have both seen the death rate slowly rise again on the back of recent rises in infections.
The following chart shows the daily death rate when the size of population is taken into account. 
You can see Spain's per capita death rate slowly converging with that of the UK, while Sweden's -- the highest of The Local's countries when we last looked at the charts at the start of January -- is now below those of Spain, Germany, France and Italy. 
This chart also highlights just how lightly Norway is still being affected by the pandemic, with its per capita death rate far below those of other European counties.  
6.  Total deaths linked to Covid-19
This chart shows the countries with the highest death tolls linked to the Covid-19 virus. However as the chart notes, testing and different ways of attributing the cause of death means the number of confirmed deaths may not be an accurate count of the true number of deaths from Covid-19.
Compared to the situation last month, the most obvious change is the toll taken by the UK, with the country recording 30,000 Covid deaths in a month. Spain has also seen arguably its deadliest month in the pandemic, with more than 10,000 new dead.  
Also striking is the relatively large number of deaths in Sweden, now at over 12,000, compared to its Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway.
Taken together, the two countries, which have a combined population similar to that of Sweden, have seen less than a quarter as many deaths.
7. First wave compared to second (and third) wave
This chart, which updates automatically, shows how the spike in mortality rates compare to the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.
Here the UK, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark stand out as the countries where the second wave has been much more severe than the first. 
Spain, in contrast, had relatively mild second wave after suffering the most severe first wave in Europe, only to see a third wave (albeit still not as severe as the situation it faced in April. 
The following chart looks at death rates during the first and second or third waves based on size of population.
8. Testing rates
This chart looks at how different countries square up when it comes to testing the population for Covid-19.
Here you can see the enormous surge in testing Austria achieved in January, despite shelving its compulsory mass testing program du
Aside from Austria, Denmark remains far ahead of other countries based on the number of tests carried out per thousand people.
You can see a spike before Christmas when Danes got themselves tested so they could more safely see relatives.

As the high level of testing in Denmark and Austria, makes the other countries bunch together on the charts, here's a chart with the two leading countries removed. 

Here you can see France's strong performance, with a surge in testing around Christmas, and also high levels of testing in Spain, reflecting the country's third wave. 

Germany, which briefly led Europe in testing in April, now tests a lower share of its population than any other country covered by The Local's network.   

9. Positivity rate of tests

The map and chart below show the positivity rates of tests in the past week, showing how Spain is now the hotspot for infection in The Local's network, and how in Denmark, an extremely high testing rate is combined with low levels of infection. 
(Change World to Europe on the chart)
10. How strict are governments?
All the graphs above very much depend on the strategies of each government and the restrictions they have imposed. Spikes are often followed by lockdowns which have resulted in rates dropping.
The Local has been reporting over recent days and weeks government measures are changing constantly as infection rates climb, fall or plateau.
The chart below tracks the Government Stringency Index, put together by the Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT). 
Our World in Data says: "The chart here shows how governmental response has changed over time. It shows the Government Stringency Index – a composite measure of the strictness of policy responses."
The index looks at measures including school and workplace closures, restrictions on public gatherings, transport restrictions and stay-at-home requirements and gives a score out of 100.
Here, what stands out is the relative relaxation of France's restrictions since the country came out of lockdown on December 15th, with the country falling from the strictest among the countries covered by The Local's network to the most lax after Switzerland, which the index has ranked the least strict since the start of January. 
Since Christmas, Germany, Austria and the UK have had the strictest regulations in place, with the latter two imposing stay-at-home orders, and Germany closing everything except essential shops and recommending that each household meet only one other outside their bubble. 
The extent of restrictions in Italy and Spain vary considerably by region, but taken together they are tough enough for OxCGRT to rank both countries as among the strictest.  
Valencia in Spain has closed businesses, restaurants, and brought forward their curfew, while Madrid has tried to keep restrictions as light as possible. 
In Italy, the northern Bolzano (Alto Adige) province has now gone into strict lockdown after the first case of the UK variant was detected. Umbria and Sicily are also classed as 'orange zones' meaning moderate-high restrictions are in place including the closure of restaurants. 


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[email protected] 2021/02/16 17:24
Maybe now that we know Berset hid critical information, he can be forced to resign and Switzerland will improve. The vaccine rollout has not been good - is this Berset's fault also?

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