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Covid-19 in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany

Coronavirus mortality: Comparative performance to 21st January 2021.
Germany has a larger population but a smaller death toll than the UK, France, Italy or Spain. As a result its deaths per million figure is half that of the other countries.

With the next highest population, the UK is more than twice as deadly as Germany.

France keeps its people alive better than others, but they are still almost twice as likely to die of Covid than Germans.

People in Italy have been at slightly more risk than Brits through 2020.

Spain has done a little worse than France.

Only the UK still has rising death rates in January 2021, though Germany’s struggling to keep it level.

The UK is now the world’s 4th most Covid-deadly country

We passed Italy at the weekend. Only Czechia, Slovenia and Belgium have worse deaths per million. These are all much smaller countries, where a handful of deaths makes a bigger difference to the population ratio.

In terms of absolute numbers, the UK comes 5th after the USA, Brazil, India and Mexico. These all have larger populations than us – the smallest is Mexico, with roughly twice as many people as the UK.

2 distinct coronavirus waves in Europe

Countries like Germany and the Central European nations acted fast and hard when the pandemic first hit, keeping their first wave impressively low compared to France, Spain, Italy and the UK. Italy and Spain were taken by surprise and, while they imposed strong restrictions after a few weeks, that was long enough to send mortality rocketing. The UK and France were slow off the mark, and it showed in a terrifying peak mortality during April-May.

The UK authorities added around 5,000 deaths (29th April) and then removed around 5,000 (12th August). The dotted line shows that our Spring total would have been more like the French peak. But the UK’s March-May deaths still totalled 6,000 more than France’s after adjustment.

The UK’s fatal summer

What really hurt the UK’s 2020 Covid mortality was a failure to control transmission during June to September. Most of us probably remember those pictures of packed beaches and impromptu parties, with hundreds of people milling around the streets after closing time. Even those who were trying to be careful took advantage of the government’s “eat out to help out” offer.

It’s understandable to want to make the most of summer after months of lockdown, and Brits weren’t the only people going for it. But we abandoned all caution – and we died. Twice as many Brits as French lost their lives in summer 2020, and FIVE times the number of Germans.

Autumn/Winter horrors

The differences between the Spring and winter are interesting. Covid deaths for the 3 months of November – January compared with March – May:

  • UK is 80% up.
  • Italy’s 63% up.
  • France is 46% up.
  • Spain’s 21% down.
  • Germany’s 515% up!

People spending more time indoors, feeling overconfident about socialising, and the virus’s evolution were always going to conspire for a second Covid wave as Christmas approached.

Governments weren’t sure how to handle people’s expectations and they were getting desperate for some more economic activity.

Germany banned the traditional Christmas markets, but people defiantly set them up ad-hoc. The UK relaxed all rules even more for the festive season. Only Spain kept its head down: Christmas and New Year were pretty much cancelled and Spaniards, with painful memories of early Spring, observed their government’s extremely harsh regulations.

These actions paid off. Spain‘s mortality rose at the beginning of November but they quickly put a dampener on it, meaning they’d started taking stronger precautions from October. Their November – January deaths totalled just under half of the previous eight months while the rest of us doubled ours or worse. Their post-Christmas spike was relatively small, but levels are increasing over time.

In just the last three months, Germany lost four times as many people as they did through March – October. The only good thing to say about this is that their rate seems to be levelling off, presumably now tens of thousands have paid the death penalty for Christmas.

The UK is the only one of the 5 countries whose death rate’s still escalating fast. A terrifying 1,241 Brits have died from Covid-19 every day this week.

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