The charts say it all. Accompanying this column are eight charts, all data sourced from worldometers.info, of the daily new cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and the number of active cases for four European countries – Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.
And they tell a story.
Spain is definitely seeing what looks like the beginning of a second wave. Spain’s seven-day average of daily new cases (according to the New York Times database; all the seven-day averages are from it) as on August 2, was around 2,300. It was around 700 on July 15, and nearly 370 on July 1. The number is still just a fourth of the peaks the country saw in April, but it is rising. The country has in excess of 110,000 active cases.
France, which has a little over 75,000 active cases, is also seeing what looks like a second wave (although it isn’t as marked as Spain’s). Its seven-day average of daily new cases has increased from around 550 in mid-July to almost 1,500 in early August (it was in the mid-400s for much of June, but then started climbing).
Germany and Italy present a contrasting picture.
The first has just around 8,200 active cases currently, and there is no perceptible second wave in the country, despite the rise in number of daily cases in recent days. Its current seven-day average of daily new cases is a little under 700, almost double the 350 it was in mid-July (it was almost 500 in late June).
The second, Italy, has just about 12,000 active cases, and it too isn’t showing a clear second wave. Its current seven-day average of daily new cases is around 280, a little higher than the roughly-200 level it was at in mid-July (it was around 250 in late June).
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In both these countries, though, the increase in daily cases is worrying because it could, just as it has in Spain and France, result in a second wave (however small) if the reasons behind the rise in infections are not addressed.
None of these countries is like the US, where the clear second wave that has been evident since mid-June has been driven, largely, by infections in regions that were hitherto unaffected, or little affected, by the pandemic (even as some states that believed they had the disease under control are seeing a recurrence of infections).
The reason for the resurgence of the disease in Spain and France, and to a much lesser extent, in Germany and Italy, is that they opened up some time back, albeit with rules related to social distancing and the wearing of masks – which many people, especially the young, are flouting (it is summer after all, in Europe, what would have been peak holiday season if not for the pandemic) . According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, there is a higher incidence of the virus among young people in France, an increase in the number of young people being infected and hospitalised in Spain, and a lowering of the median age of new infections in July in Italy.
The article quotes a 23-year old student in Paris: “We were being careful at first, and then not so much.” It adds: “…younger Europeans say they are tired of maintaining rigorous social distancing…”
Or, as I wrote in Dispatch 87 (and it is definitely worth repeating in the larger interest): “So, bored, tired, lonely perhaps, and physically, mentally, and emotionally weary, we let things slip. And the virus wins.”
Sometimes, that’s all it takes to start a second wave.