Seconda parte: coronavirus progression rates in Italy and the UK are still chalk and cheese

It’s in the nature of viral outbreaks to take their time to get going then suddenly explode.

For that reason, I’m not discounting the possibility that the UK could be overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases in the next few weeks.

However, I remain impressed by the very different profiles of the outbreaks here and in Italy so far.

The two outbreaks matched each other cough for sniffle for the first three weeks of February. Then, for whatever reason, the Italian outbreak took off like a Ferrari while the UK’s one accelerated after it like my old dad’s Austin Princess, i.e. barely at all.

As of yesterday, 11 March, the UK had 6.9 cases of Covid-19 per million population while Italy had 206. One of the big things in epidemiology is how quickly infections spread out among people.

So, in the UK yesterday, the distribution of cases was one in 112,000 people. In other words, if you filled both Wembley Stadium and Watford FC’s Vicarage Road with people, you’d have to shake hands with all of them to be sure of meeting the one with coronavirus.

In Italy, you could meet the victim by going to their equivalent of Chesham United FC playing to a less-than-capacity crowd of 4,854. (I seem to recall my dad’s Austin Princess breaking down in Chesham once. Never call a car or a cruise liner “Princess”).

The question is, why the difference between here and Italy? All those beakers of wine going around at Mass? Some say Italy didn’t move fast enough, but at least they moved: the UK government has done little more than talk a good game and use the virus as cover for a £30bn spending spree to make up for having Boris Johnson as PM.

So far, it looks like you’re damned if you do (Italy) and not damned if you don’t (UK). How soon will that change, if ever?

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