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Coronavirus outbreaks plateau in Italy and Spain

Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus outbreaks plateau in Italy and Spain

In the UK and the US, every day still brings more new confirmed cases and deaths than the last

There are early signs that Italy has turned a corner in its fight against coronavirus © Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty

The numbers of new confirmed cases and deaths from coronavirus have begun to plateau or fall in several European countries, according to Financial Times analysis.

For most of March, Italy and Spain have been at the centre of the storm, with each day bringing more new infections and deaths as their outbreaks accelerated. Following weeks of stringent lockdowns, however, there are early signs that both countries have turned a corner in their fight against the virus.

Italy’s new daily positive tests peaked at 6,557 on March 21 but have been trending steadily downwards since then. Deaths also appear to have peaked with 919 fatalities on March 27.

Some experts have warned that Italy’s falling case count may be because of a decline in daily testing numbers rather than a slowdown in the outbreak itself, but other data from the Italian health ministry show that hospitalisations are also declining, suggesting that the worst may have passed.

A flattening and reduction in new cases and deaths still means that each day brings more infections and fatalities. In China, it took two months for daily infections to come down from their peak of thousands per day to the dozens seen now.

Spain’s outbreak has lagged a few days behind Italy’s but appears to be following the same trend. Daily new infections in Spain peaked at 8,271 on March 26, but appeared to have plateaued at about 8,000 every day since. Similarly, Spain’s daily death toll appears to be stabilising, but reached a new peak of 932 on April 1, up from 913 two days earlier.

France and Germany’s outbreaks are also showing early signs that exponential increases in cases are coming to an end. Daily death tolls in both are still accelerating, but daily new infections are beginning to stabilise.

Sweden is a cautionary tale. Daily new infections looked to have flattened off after peaking in mid March, but the rate of increase has begun picking up again.

The UK and the US outbreaks, by contrast, have shown no signs of slowing down. The UK locked down later than much of Europe, while the US has not yet applied national containment measures. 

In the UK, April 1 brought more than 4,000 new confirmed cases, a thousand higher than on any previous day. The US announced 26,473 new confirmed cases, the 11th successive daily increase in new infections.

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Daily death tolls are also still increasing exponentially in both countries. The UK announced 563 new deaths on April 1, having previously not gone above 400. In the US on Wednesday there were 1,049 new fatalities, the highest daily increase anywhere in the world to date.

India locked down last week, but new infections jumped to 600 on April 1, having previously fluctuated between the 100 and 400 mark. 

In some cases these jumps may be because of data reporting lags, with several days’ cases or deaths announced in one go. 

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