Analysis by Keith Rankin.
At first glance through our rear-vision mirror, western Europe had a substantial spring outbreak of Covid19, and further outbreaks in spring and autumn. Three countries really ‘spiked’ in the northern winter: United Kingdom, Portugal and Ireland. This was the impact of the “more transmissible” ‘UK variant’. While the other countries shown had much smaller January peaks, their recoveries may have stalled. All countries seem to have converged at around 4 daily deaths per million people in the population (equivalent to 20 daily deaths in New Zealand); probably Netherlands too which for at least some of the period under-recorded its Covid19 deaths.
This chart makes it look as though the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could have gone ahead in July 2020, especially given that ‘deaths’ is a lagging indicator of Covid19 in the communities.
Looking further afield however, we see that United States, Brazil and Israel had substantial rates of infection during the northern summer. Eastern Europe, though, had been hardly affected, at least by western European standards.
These three non-European countries – among others – kept the covid‑fires burning, and Eastern Europe was in the vanguard of the European covid revival.
In the last two weeks, in the non-European countries shown, improving death rates have stalled despite vaccinations. And, in Eastern Europe, recent death rates remain stubbornly close to 2020 West European peaks. While the ‘vaccine rollout’ in the European Union may have initially been equitably distributed throughout the European Union, it’s now looking as though we are once again seeing a two-tier Union. (Now East versus West, instead of the North versus South that we saw in the early 2010s’ economic crisis.)
The case data, shown on a ‘multiplicative scale’ that is more sensitive to the early stages of infectious outbreaks, the present European crisis was already starting in July 2020. This went well under the radar, while countries like United States, Brazil and Israel were having record case numbers.
Eastern Europe, still having the worst Covid19 crisis of any region in the world, is now having more new cases, not less. Indeed, in the north, it is only the countries linked to the United Kingdom that are still showing persistent falls in case numbers. Given that Portugal and Ireland – European Union members –have had less vaccination per person than the United Kingdom, it seems most likely that the improvements in case numbers in these countries are mainly due to ‘lockdowns’ than to vaccines.