While waiting for today’s ‘coronavirus Budget’, about which I was writing some pithy comments for a client, there was time to reflect on the progress of the coronavirus outbreak at home and abroad.
Let’s look at what’s happened so far in the UK and in Italy.
Until 20 February, the UK was leading Italy by 8-3 in new cases. Then, on the 21st, Italy confirmed 17 new cases in a day and the outbreak there took off.
On 1 March, the day my little Cotswold town saw a case in one of its schools, the UK logged 12 new cases while Italy added another 566 to its cumulative caseload of 1,128.
Aside from our local school closing for three days for a deep clean, and the now-ubiquitous paucity of loo rolls and pasta in the supermarkets, life here goes on as normal. No masked townspeople on the street. Nothing cancelled.
As of yesterday, 10 March, the UK had recorded 375 cases in total, compared with Italy’s 10,149. There was a chink of light, though. The number of new cases in both countries fell compared to their peak days to-date – 8 March in the UK and 9 March in Italy.
Cumulatively, Italy has the unfortunate distinction of heading the world rankings for coronavirus cases per head of population: 167.9 per million. China ranks 8th at 56.1 per million.
By that measure, the UK, with 5.6 cases per million, is only the 31st-worst-affected nation at this point. We’re behind Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Slovenia among others. We’ve been 100 times less affected than Italy and 10 times less affected than China.
It’s too early to predict what will happen next. The UK has not imposed the draconian travel and meeting bans applied in Italy and China. And yet our coronavirus curve seems to be tracking Italy’s towards stabilisation if not decline, though at a much lower level.
Is the worst yet to come? Listening to the Chancellor as I type, it must be. Otherwise the outbreak here will be over before they can write the cheques for the £30bn virus stimulus he bestowed on a grateful nation today.