- The World Health Organisation has said that the US could become the next centre of the global coronavirus outbreak.
- Data suggests that in China and Italy, the countries most severely affected by the outbreak, strict quarantining measures seemed to work, slowing the spread of the disease.
- Data also indicates that new infections in the US are growing so fast that the total could soon surpass both China’s and Italy’s totals.
- Federal and state governments have taken only a patchwork approach to curbing the spread of the virus.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The World Health Organisation on Wednesday said that the US could become the new centre of the coronavirus pandemic, a prediction that every day looks closer to coming true. As of Thursday, the US was only 6,219 infections behind China’s total: China had reported 81,285 infections, while the US had 75,066.
WHO’s warning was at odds with messages from the Trump administration. This week, President Donald Trump floated plans to relax quarantine measures and restart the US economy by Easter.
Only 27 states and Washington, DC, have imposed “lockdown” rules for their citizens. In many states, it is largely business as usual. Without the drastic measures taken by many European countries – first rolled out by China when the city of Wuhan was overwhelmed by the virus – the US now looks to be on course to surpass all these places in infections and deaths.
Insider looked at the progress of the pandemic in some of the most affected countries and compared that with what is happening in the US.
The data is from Worldometer, a website that compiles graphs based on the most recent data from public-health authorities.
Let’s look at the experience of other countries first:
The number of sick people in China is extremely low after a long, harsh quarantine
The data shows that infections peaked in about mid-February, with about 60,000 people infected.
Strict quarantine measures covering about 60 million people in Hubei, the province where the outbreak originated, were imposed in late January and are just beginning to lift.
Over the past month, the number of people infected has steadily declined. According to Worldometer’s data, there were just 3,947 active cases in the country as of Thursday.
- China: 3,287 deaths
The outbreak has killed at least 3,287 people in China, and though the death toll is large, it is well below that of other countries with severe outbreaks; Italy and Spain both already have more dead.
After weeks of rising cases, Italy now appears to be stabilizing
The total number of cases in Italy recently reached 74,000 – on course to overtake China in a matter of days.
- Italy: 7,503 deaths
But the number of new cases recorded in the country has been declining or flat for several days. The total number of active cases stood at 57,521 on Thursday, according to Worldometer’s data. The problem is growing, but more slowly.
The crisis in Italy has led many countries to push to “flatten the curve,” or impose harsh lockdowns to slow the rate of new infections and help health services cope. Italy imposed its national lockdown on March 9.
Pinar Keskinocak, the director of the Centre for Health and Humanitarian Systems at Georgia Tech, told Livescience this week that lockdowns could take two to six weeks to have a noticeable effect.
That would match what happened in China, where coronavirus infections peaked about a month after lockdown measures were implemented.
In Spain, authorities were slow to react, and the number of new cases and deaths has rapidly increased
Spain is the second European country to record more deaths from the illness than China, with more than 4,000 dead as of Thursday.
The Spanish government’s response to the crisis was slow, with authorities imposing quarantine measures with a lack of clear coordination. Hospitals have struggled to procure vital equipment. Daily new cases have risen in an unbroken curve.
- Spain: 4,089 deaths
Early Thursday, the Spanish Parliament extended its emergency measures until April 12, requiring people to stay at home and businesses to remain closed.
In the US, the number of daily new infections has been increasing sharply. It’s easy to forecast 1,000 deaths a day.
The total number of cases in the US stood at 73,981 on Thursday. But unlike Italy, where the number of daily new cases has been declining, the US has seen cases sharply increase.
The US is failing to flatten the curve. This is because the US is at a different phase of the outbreak: It is still in the beginning, when infections surge. The US has a far larger population than Italy, as well as more large, dense cities.
- United States: 1,037 deaths
Pantheon Macroeconomics, a US economic-research consultancy, has said the number of deaths is doubling roughly every 2 1/2 days and by the end of next week could reach 1,000 a day. As of Thursday, about 250 people were dying a day.
In the US, there is no federal lockdown. Only about one in three Americans is subject to some kind of state lockdown order.
Instead, the federal government has issued a 15-day advisory for people to stay at home and avoid nonessential contact with others. Many states, such as New York, have imposed their own legally enforceable orders, but many have not.
At the moment, the number of both new cases and new deaths are rising fast:
Trump has talked about easing restrictions in the US in as little as two weeks, a move that experts told The Washington Post would be disastrous and put the country on a harsher trajectory than China, Italy, or Spain.
As China and Italy show, it’s only when tough quarantining measures are put in place and given time to work that infections decline.
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