The Wuhan coronavirus in four countries

In this post, I want to discuss pandemic related developments in four countries I have mentioned from time to time on Power Line. They are: Austria, Sweden, Singapore, and South Korea. My post draws no conclusions. I leave it to readers to draw, or not draw, them. All numbers I cite are from Worldometer.

Austria has partially reopened its economy. It did so a little more than a week ago. Thus, it’s probably too early to look for trends in Austria’s reported coronavirus case numbers (the number of new cases is declining daily) and it’s certainly too early to compare death totals.

The comparisons I want to make are between Austria’s numbers at the time of the partial reopening and the numbers in various U.S. states. Austria’s numbers were around 13,500 total cases, around 300 new cases per day, around 350 total deaths from the virus, and around 20 new deaths per day. Austria had about 6,500 active cases.

Here in America, a clear majority of states currently have fewer total cases and fewer active cases than Austria did when it reopened. A clear majority are also reporting fewer new cases each day than Austria was. Similarly, a clear majority are reporting fewer total deaths and fewer new deaths daily.

A few caveats. First, although Austria is part of the EU, I assume there is less travel from neighboring countries into Austria than there is between most neighboring states in the U.S. On the other hand, many of the states with low case numbers are bordered by states that also have low numbers.

Second, as I understand it, a key factor in the decision to reopen Austria was a sharp decline in (1) the number of reported new cases and (2) the number of active cases. I don’t know the extent to which states in the U.S. are experiencing such declines.

However, in some states the number of new cases and active cases is so small that a dramatic decline isn’t possible. For example, Hawaii has 151 active cases and reported only 4 new ones yesterday (on some of the islands that make up Hawaii, including the Big Island, it’s likely that there are virtually no cases). Wyoming has 189 active cases and reported 2 new ones yesterday. In the east, Maine has 426 active cases and reported 8 yesterday.

Sweden, as we have discussed, partially reopened its economy at the beginning of this month. Neighboring Norway persisted with a shutdown. When Sweden made its decision, it had about 6,100 reported cases of the virus. Norway had about 5,400. However, Sweden had many more reported deaths attributed to the virus than did Norway (around 300 compared to around 50).

Now, Sweden has more than twice as many reported cases as Norway (nearly 15,000 compared to a little more than 7,000). The disparity in the death count is now 1,580 compared to 181. However, I suspect that most of the deaths in Sweden are from infections that occurred before the reopening. I also wonder whether Norway and Sweden are using the same methodology to decide which deaths to attribute to the Wuhan coronavirus.

Singapore had great initial success in stemming infections from the virus. However, as we noted, it was hit by a second wave. Yesterday, April 20, there were 1,426 new reported cases. That number represents about one-fifth of Singapore’s total reported cases. The previous high for new reported cases in a day was 942 on April 18.

The new outbreak has occurred mostly in crowded dormitories where migrant laborers live. Singapore had done a good job of contact tracing during the first wave. Maybe, however, it didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on among poor immigrants.

South Korea also successfully dealt with the first wave of coronavirus infections. Unlike Singapore, it has not experienced a second wave — not yet, anyway. New reported cases continue to diminish. The past two days combined have seen only 21 of them. Yesterday, South Korea reported one death due to the virus. In total, only 237 South Koreans have died on its account, according to that nation’s reporting.

As a result of this success in dealing with the virus, South Korean professional baseball is starting up. Spring training is already in progress. A full regular season, 144 games, is supposed to begin on May 5.

There will be no spectators. Umpires will wear masks. Players will have their temperatures taken as they enter the stadium. Spitting and finger licking will be banned. (Scratching, I take it, will be allowed.)

The South Korean Baseball League is considered by some to be the third best in the world. Given the reasonably high quality of the play, there is speculation that American sports channels might show South Korean games on television. If my experience following South Korean soccer teams during World Cups in any guide, it will be difficult for Americans to “tell the players” — the Parks, the Kims, etc. — even with a scorecard.

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