The Wuhan coronavirus makes a comeback in Europe

Not everywhere in Europe. Germany, Italy, and the UK seem to doing fine right now. However, it’s a different story in Spain, France, and Belgium.

Let’s start with Spain. Throughout June, reported new cases were about 500 per day. Daily deaths attributed to the virus were practically nil, if one believes the data. (The numbers cited herein come from Worldometer.)

Now, in late July, reported new cases are about 2,000 per day. Daily deaths attributed to the virus are still practically nil, but even if one assumes that this is accurate, it’s unlikely to hold in the face of all the new cases.

This article in the Guardian is called “The conditions for a coronavirus spike in Spain were clear. Yet no one saw it coming.” It begins with the obligatory shot at President Trump, but then presents a serious analysis of why the coronavirus spike in Spain has occurred.

In France, the spike in reported new cases is less pronounced than in Spain. Daily new cases have roughly doubled this month — from around 600 to around 1,100. As in Spain, daily deaths attributed to the virus remain negligible.

The number of “active cases” — that is, current known infections — has risen steadily since leveling off at around 50,000 at the end of May. Now, there are said to be 72,000 active cases.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran insists that France isn’t “currently. . .seeing a second wave” of coronavirus cases. He warns, however, that the numbers point in a worrying direction. “Over the past few days we have seen the number of positive cases rise sharply after it fell for 13 weeks,” he said.

According to the national health agency Santé Publique France, the spike in cases isn’t due primarily to increased testing. Increased hospitalizations confirm that France is experiencing a resurgence of the virus.

Why? Probably because the French have started partying again. That’s the thesis of this article. It’s also the view of my wife’s cousin in Nice. Last week from her apartment window, she saw large gatherings on the Promenade des Anglais. Many of the party people were without masks.

To be sure, infections among the young do not lead directly to many deaths. Over time, however, these infections tend to spread to parents and grandparents, some of whom are highly vulnerable.

Let’s now consider Belgium. No country in the world has registered more coronavirus deaths per capita than Belgium — 847 per one million people. That’s almost twice the U.S. number.

By July, though, Belgium was reporting fewer than 10 coronavirus deaths per day. That’s still the case.

However, daily new reported cases have risen steeply — from around 100 a day at the beginning of this month to about four times that many now. In response, Belgium’s prime minister has put the brakes on the country’s coronavirus exit plan, unveiling a set of drastic social distancing measures. She says the goal is to avoid a return to full lockdown.

Finally, let’s look at a country that didn’t go on lockdown during the Spring — Sweden. It has experienced vastly more deaths from the virus per capita than nearby countries that did lock down. However, it is not experiencing a second wave or a summer spike.

Daily new reported cases have dropped dramatically — from around 1,500 per day in late June to around 250 in late July. Similarly, deaths attributed to the virus are down from a peak of more than 100 per day in mid April to single digits now.

To be fair, Norway, which locked down, hasn’t experienced a summer spike, either. Denmark, which also locked down, has experienced a small increase in reported cases per day, but not in daily deaths.

What does it all mean? I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions and limit mine to this: Those eager to blast the U.S. and its policymakers for a spike in cases that Europe avoided may be taking their victory lap prematurely.

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