Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 21, 2020

The rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in the 27 nations of the European Union has reached nearly double the rate coronavirus infections are spreading within the United States. Here's a chart showing the sudden, runaway growth of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the EU compared with the US.

European Union (EU-27) and United States: Newly Confirmed COVID-19 Cases per 100,000 Residents, Rolling 7-Day Moving Average, 29 January 2020 - 18 October 2020

The EU has been experiencing true exponential growth since late July 2020. Starting from the very low level of a rolling 7-day moving average of less than one new case for every 100,000 residents, the EU is now recording over 20 new cases per 100,000 residents per day. If the United Kingdom were still included as part of the EU, the rate at which new cases are being recorded would exceed 32 cases per day per 100,000 residents, which points to how hard the UK is currently being impacted.

Officials in the EU point to the role of August travel and outbreaks in holiday destinations in generating the continent's second wave of coronavirus infections:

With new COVID-19 cases ebbing, many European nations started reopening their borders in mid-June. Travelers began to fly south for vacation like they would on any nonpandemic-ravaged year.

But outbreaks bloomed in summer holiday destinations, such as the French Riviera, Greece, and Croatia.

And then those travelers flew back to their home countries, where the outbreaks had been relatively contained.

In August, Italian officials said 30 percent of new cases were due to people who contracted the virus abroad. In Germany, officials put the figure at nearly 40 percent.

Unlike the United States, many nations in the European Union have long established national health care systems, which may have given their residents a false sense of confidence in their situation. Combined with extraordinarily strict lockdown measures that had been adopted to keep their health care systems from becoming overwhelmed earlier in 2020, that false sense of safety may have contributed to the moral hazard of engaging in social mixing while on holiday after the measures were lifted in the summer, fueling Europe's new surge in coronavirus infections.

Since one of the defining characteristics of such national health care systems is chronic underinvestment in health care technology and treatment facilities as compared to market-based systems, many of these nations are once again at risk of exceeding their health care systems' available capacity to care for infected patients unless they re-impose lockdown orders on their populations. Highly restrictive measures are already being imposed in the United Kingdom, while other European nations adopt partial lockdown measures at their national level with considerably stricter restrictions in large cities. Generally speaking, the new attempt to contain the spread of COVID infections is a repeat performance of what they did earlier in 2020.

References

2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) Data Repository by Johns Hopkins CSSE. Confirmed Global Time Series Data. [Online Database]. Accessed 19 October 2020.

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