Covid-19, October balance: the virus resists

Covid-19, October balance: the virus resists

The scenario that was glimpsed after the September data, the end of the third and last wave of the pandemic on a planetary scale, is no longer so clear. During the month of October, and more strongly in the first days of November, the number of new cases of Covid 19 has accelerated again, as shown in Graph 1.

It is noteworthy that the rally took place when the minimum exit levels of the first and second waves had not yet been reached, some 300-350,000 cases per day on average.

On this occasion, using the 7-day moving average, it has not been possible to drop below 400,000 and we are already back in the range of 450-500,000 new cases per day. This implies that It cannot be said that we are at the “end of the pandemic”, as we did in September, and that this end is still far away. Someone may think that the rebound in cases at this point is no longer a relevant variable, given the level of vaccination that protects especially the most vulnerable groups.

Source: Worldometers

Source: Worldometers

Graph 2, which includes the number of new daily deaths from Covid, although it has fallen below the lows of the 1st and 2nd waves, has stopped falling and has even rebounded and is once again at 6,800- 7,200 new deaths every day.

We are, therefore, a long way from being able to celebrate the end of the pandemic, and we will only achieve that when vaccination is generalized throughout the planet. This delay to the final shelving will have economic repercussions that, although not of the magnitude of what happened in 2020, could delay the “Great Recovery” scenario planned for 2022.

Source: Worldometers

Source: Worldometers

In Graph 3 I present the percentage of the population vaccinated with a complete schedule in the world, which does not reach 40%, in comparison with two of the most successful countries in terms of the vaccination campaign: Portugal, with 87, 4% of the population with a complete pattern and Spain, with close to 79%.

Both are in the group of 5 countries with a higher percentage of the population with a complete regimen, despite not having addressed the vaccination of children under 12 years of age.

Source: Our World in Data

Source: Our World in Data

The global incidence in October

As I usually do in these monthly reports, I collect in Table 1 the usual selection of countries and regions of the world, assigning the color red to those that have worsened compared to the month of September, in green to those that have improved and in black those who have remained stable.

Although the color green continues to dominate the table, since we are far from the peaks of July and August, the color red has reappeared in very significant countries and regions of the world. The number of new cases in the world total has fallen again to below 13 million, which means a daily average of about 415,000. This represents a decrease of more than 3 million with respect to the September records, but it is still above the “valleys” of June and February, with 11 million each.

But, as we said at the beginning, the turnaround since mid-October and during the first week of November anticipates a possible deterioration in the global incidence when this month ends.

Source: Worldometers and own elaboration @migsebastiang

Source: Worldometers and own elaboration @migsebastiang

By regions, highlights the worsening of Europe, excluding Russia and Turkey, which, with 4.3 million new cases, returns to records not seen since April of this year. Within Europe there is great heterogeneity. Countries in the south and west have improved compared to the previous month, and those in the east, center and north have generally worsened significantly. An exception is the United Kingdom and Ireland which, despite being in the west, have recorded worse data than in September. We will analyze it in detail later.

The areas of the world that have improved the most in October have been North America (USA and Canada) and Latin America. The US has cut its cases by 40%, more or less like Brazil, while Mexico has done it in more than 50%. Argentina has also been very successful, which has reduced its incidence by almost 60%, and Colombia, which, although it has only reduced them by 10%, has done so from very low levels reached in September, and in October it has reached almost minimum since the start of the pandemic. Colombia, which was among the 8 worst countries in the world this summer, has been overtaken by Iran, Argentina and Spain, and is now ranked number 11 in the world ranking. An exception within Latin America has been Chile, which has worsened its records compared to September. But it does it from very low levels.

When it comes to Asia, the picture is mixed. Russia has probably been the worst country in the world when it comes to the incidence of Covid19 in October. It has exceeded one million cases per month, for the first time in the pandemic. Turkey has lagged behind, with nearly 900,000 infected, although the maximum was reached last April. By contrast, India has improved, cutting September’s incidence by almost half, with half a million cases, the best record since February. Far are the 7 million cases in April or the 9 million in the dramatic moments of May.

The turn given since mid-October anticipates a possible deterioration in the incidence when this month ends.

In the Far East there has also been improvement. Japan has cut its cases to almost a tenth and Vietnam has divided them by 3. Korea and China have also improved, although marginally. In contrast, two of the traditionally most successful countries, Australia and New Zealand, have reached record levels in the pandemic, although they remain at comparatively low records.

The balance of October in Europe

Table 1 shows that the number of cases in Europe as a whole, excluding Russia and Turkey, has increased by 32%, from 3.2 to 4.3 million new cases. In Graph 4 I present the map of the cumulative incidence at 14 days in the EU regions at the end of October.

As I said at the beginning, the main problems are centered in the British Isles and in central and eastern Europe. Poland has multiplied by more than 6 its number of cases in September and the Baltic countries, Romania and Bulgaria, even more.

Source: ECDC (10/28/2021)

Source: ECDC (10/28/2021)

If we focus on the 5 large European countries, as shown in Graph 5 and its attached table, the panorama has been totally dominated by the United Kingdom, which has continued to apply the “Swedish model” (letting young people get infected, once the older ones are protected). A) Yes, it has even worsened its records for September, reaching 1.25 million cases in October, 25% more.

The discussion about the “goodness” of this approach should be put on hold until the pandemic is over and a balance is made of the different models. The truth is that in the month of October in the United Kingdom there have been 4,000 deaths from Covid-19, almost 130 deaths a day. On the other hand, it seems that the rate of contagion has slowed somewhat in the last week of the month.

Germany has once again been the second worst country of the large Europeans, with 366,000 cases in October, 27% more than in September, the worst month since April. An unusual second place for this country. And everything indicates that November could be even worse judging by the rate of increase in the last week of October and the first week of November, which, projected for the entire month, would exceed half a million cases and could be the worst month of the pandemic in one of the countries that had become a virtuous model within Europe. It is not ruled out that containment measures will be re-imposed in Germany, with its consequent economic impact.

The rest of the countries have fared much better. All have had a lower result than in September, substantially cutting the incidence: Italy -25%, France -40% and Spain almost -50%.

Source: Worldometers and own elaboration @migsebastiang

Source: Worldometers and own elaboration @migsebastiang

However, in the last week of the month, both France and Italy have worsened their incidence, while Spain has maintained it.

The case of Spain

Spain, as we said before, has been the country in Europe that has improved the most in October and one of the best in the world, behind Mexico, Argentina, Japan and Vietnam, by cutting its cases by almost half. Despite this, it has exceeded 5 million cases and has secured its third place in the European ranking, after the UK and France, and tenth in the world, having overtaken Colombia.

The level of vaccination in our country, with almost 80% of the population with a complete guideline and places us in fifth place in the world ranking, is undoubtedly behind this recent favorable evolution of the pandemic. These good results in our country should not make us forget the 981 deaths from Covid-19 in the month of October, as shown in Table 2.

Source: Ministry of Health and own elaboration @migsebastiang

Source: Ministry of Health and own elaboration @migsebastiang

The fifth wave, slowly declining since the end of July, reached a minimum on October 14, as forecast in the previous monthly report. The bottom was reached with an AI14 of 40.52 and an AI7 of 17.76. Since then, and until November 5, they have increased by about 13 and 9.5 points, respectively. This represents a very gradual rise, not seen so far in the pandemic: for AI14 about 0.6 points per day.

The scenarios until the end of November are, contrary to a good part of the European countries, of some very gradual increases in incidences. In the pessimistic scenario, the AI14 would reach 75-80 by the end of the month. In the optimistic scenario it would barely exceed 60.

Source: Ministry of Health and own elaboration @migsebastiang

Source: Ministry of Health and own elaboration @migsebastiang

As far as vaccination is concerned, in the month of October the brake on the rate of vaccination started in August has sharpened. On average, 61,000 daily doses have been administered, 60% less than the previous month, which had already been weak. But it is that, discounting the booster doses, which are the 3rd doses to those over 70 and the second doses, both to those vaccinated with Janssen and to those who had a single dose for having passed the Covid, barely 34,000 new daily doses have been administered. This represents a minimum since the beginning of the vaccination campaign: in the first week of January, 36,000 daily doses were administered.

With data from the end of the month, we still have 4.2 million Spaniards over 12 years of age without having received a single dose. No decision has been made on whether to consider this group impossible or start a campaign that encourages residual vaccination of this almost 10% of the population. As long as the incidence continues at these levels there will be no pressure for this type of campaign. But to address it would be to definitively eliminate a risk factor.

Miguel Sebastián – Complutense University and ICAE

Source: Worldometers

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