The weird global coronavirus data
By Scott Sumner
I understand that the reported data on this epidemic may not be accurate, but what else do we have to go on? In any case, I’d like to point to a few oddities, for what it’s worth:
As of today, a total of 10 people in Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are known to have the coronavirus. A few dozen had it but are now virus free. Those countries have over 2.2 billion people.
As of today, 11 people in Iceland are known to have the virus. Iceland has 330,000 people. Does this mean that it’s more easily transmitted in cold weather?
In Norway, 32 currently are known to have the virus in a country of about 5 million. In China outside Hubei, about 13,000 had the virus and about 12,000 recovered, meaning about 1000 currently are known to have the virus. Italy has twice as many infected and South Korea has 5 times as many, even without adjusting for population. A random person in Norway is about 8 times more likely to infect you than a random person in non-Hubei parts of China. Is it now safer to visit Shanghai than Oslo?
You can say the Chinese caseload data is vastly underreported, but it does sort of match the Chinese data on coronavirus deaths, which are also increasingly rare outside Hubei. And the World Health Organization seems to believe the data is plausible.
A few weeks ago, most people looked at this as a Chinese problem. People felt sorry for China. They still have borne the brunt of the epidemic. But it now seems possible that by April the Chinese caseload will have fallen even further and output will be rising rapidly, while Europe will have a soaring caseload and be plunging into recession. (With the US somewhere in between?)
That’s something no one would have anticipated even three weeks ago.
(Oh wait, the Chinese stock market has been doing better than the European markets, a fact that puzzled people last week.)