The Wuhan coronavirus in the UK

With the Wuhan coronavirus receding significantly in Italy and Spain, the United Kingdom is about to become the European leader in deaths from the virus. The number of deaths attributed to the virus in the UK, more than 28,000, is only about 400 fewer than the total in Italy, the current European leader. (Unless otherwise noted, all numbers are from Worldometer.)

Deaths per capita remain lower in the UK than in Italy, and much lower than in Spain. (For now, the U.S. has a lower per capita rate than all three.) However, a month ago the UK had less than one-third the total number of coronavirus deaths in Italy and only a little more than one-third of those in Spain. Now, the UK has more such deaths than Spain and just about as many as Italy.

Last week, the UK was reporting nearly 700 deaths from the virus per day. Italy was reporting about half as many. On Sunday, May 3, the UK reported 315; Italy reported 175. (Sunday totals are sometimes outliers on the low side.)

The good news is that deaths from the virus in the UK are down from a peak of around 1,000 per day two weeks ago. But the decline in Italy and Spain has been considerably more pronounced.

The picture is similar for new reported cases. Recently, the UK typically has reported around 5,000 per day. Twice last week, it reported more than 6,000 — only one other day had ever topped that number.

By contrast, Italy is now reporting fewer than 2,000 new cases per day, and Spain between 2,000-3,000. A month ago, both Italy and Spain were reporting more new cases than the UK.

The big picture is that the number of new cases in the UK has peaked and stabilized, whereas in Italy and Spain it is declining pretty dramatically.

A look at regional data for the UK shows that the Northeast of England has been hit the hardest. Sunderland has the most cases per capita with soccer rival Middlesbrough not far behind.

The city of London is down the list, but more than 5,000 Londoners are said to have died due to the virus.

The UK’s lockdown began on March 23, well after Italy’s. Later this week the government is expected to present a roadmap for easing the lockdown. Reportedly, it will adopt a “phased approach” that allows for adjustments based on local conditions.

Naturally, the lockdown has produced devastating economic effects. According to this report, an index measuring activity in the manufacturing and service sectors dropped from 53.0 in February to 38.0 in March. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction. And the lockdown didn’t go into effect until late March.

By late April, a month into the formal lockdown, the same number had fallen from 38.0 to 12.9 and the British economy was said to be “crumbling.” Jam Vlieghe, the interest rate setter at the Bank of England, declared “we are experiencing an economic contraction that is faster and deeper than anything we have seen in the past century, or possibly several centuries.” The recovery is unlikely to be swift, he added.

I’ll always be grateful that I made my soccer pilgrimage to Liverpool and Manchester in late November, before the pandemic.

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