Coronavirus in Perspective | Samuel Leonard

In these increasingly noisy and chaotic times I am sure many of you have seen friends, family and journalists all talk about the ascending number of deaths of people that have been thought to had Covid-19 while in hospital or in care the UK. With this in mind I wanted to cut through much of the speculation and talk of the last few days to get a greater understanding on how effective the UK is responding to the epidemic by comparing us to our neighbours. Most importantly I want to show you the context of each nation by presenting some figures below to get a clear picture. I have selected the nations of The United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, France, The Netherlands and Belgium to compare against each other as they have similarities but all have different characteristics in terms of their population and national structure. This will not provide a clear answer of which government is doing better but it will enable you to consider as to why the situation is currently developing and what may influence it, instead of just asking questions without nuance.

Firstly, let’s look at a little discussed issue of overall air travel in nation’s capitals. This is an incredibly important issue when we seek to discuss why some nations have such high numbers of cases, and maybe even deaths. This is because of the large amount of contact people make in airports where this disease spreads, as well as the associated movement of individuals from airports in their location. As you can see below, London is by far the most active air hub in the nations we have listed. The array of travel that goes in to London on a day to day basis is both intense and diverse. From Beijing to Washington, Milan to Madrid, we must consider the fact that the UK has been subject to a series of possible infection channels through people coming and going within the nation’s capital like no other European city, which could contribute a massive potential increase of cases in the nation, especially from tourist hotspots.

  • UK: London all Airports – 177,751,000
  • Ireland: Dublin Airport – 32,907,673
  • France: Paris both Airports – 108,003,056
  • Netherlands: Amsterdam Airport – 71,706,999 (Main airport for all of the nation’s flights)
  • Belgium: Brussels both Airports – 34,389,683 (Primary airports for all of the nation’s flights)

The next two sets of statistics below are to give us appropriate understanding of the character of each nation’s population size and it’s character. Whether the nation is densely packed with a large urban metropolis or if it is sparsely populated with a single comparatively large city, we must consider the likely increase risk of spreading Covid-19 in a population by its due proximity as well as number of additional possible spreaders.

Population of Nation/Capital Area:

  • UK: 66,435,600 / London Metro – 14,257,962
  • Ireland: 4,921,500 / Dublin Metro 1,395,600
  • France: 67 063 703/ Greater Paris Metro – 7,068,810
  • Netherlands: 17,737,438 / Randstad Metro – 8,219,380
  • Belgium: 11,515,793 / Brussels Capital Region – 1,212,352

Population Density – Nation/Capital Area:

  • UK: 274 people per km2 / London 5,666 per km2
  •  Ireland: 70 per km2 / Dublin Urban area – 3,689 per km2
  • France: 117 per km2 / Greater Paris Metro – 8,700 per km2
  • Netherlands: 515 km2 /Randstad Metro – 5,206 per km2
  • Belgium: 376/km2 / Brussels Capital Region – 7,442 per km2

It’s clear in the above data that both the UK, Belgium and Netherlands are vastly more densely populated both as a whole and within their capitals when compared to Ireland or even countrywide France. It should be noted as well that the only accurate data is for Greater London and not the encompassing metro area in regards to the population density. Hence why we should consider this number to be higher and closer to Greater Paris Metro. This would suggest to us that London is close to being on par if not higher than the Greater Paris Metro. With all these statistics put together, it paints a picture of London and the surrounding counties being a perfect breeding ground for a highly infectious disease, with newly infected passengers arriving everyday passing on the disease to the many commuters that travel within and out of London. Especially as studies have found that higher population densities massively increase the risk of the disease spreading among individuals as seen in other densely populated areas such as New York, as well as its surrounding tri-state area.

Below the total Covid-19 Cases/Deaths in each nation:

  • UK: 93,873 / 12,107
  • Ireland: 13,446 / 406
  • France: 103,573 / 15,729
  • Netherlands:  27,419 / 2,945
  • Belgium:  18,066 / 4,157

First 100th confirmed case of Covid-19/ First recorded death:

  • UK: March 6th / March 7th
  • Ireland:  March 15th / March 16th
  • France: March 1st / March 2nd
  • Netherlands:  March 7th / March 8th
  • Belgium:  March 7th / March 8th

With this data at hand we have to acknowledge some differences between the UK that is not mentioned too often in comparison to other nations but has recently been stated within the Irish Times. The UK has a far older population than most with 18% being 65+, the UK is more diverse which is associated with the higher risk that minorities have with Covid-19, the UK population is far more clustered around urban areas, and that the UK is not able to test proportionally high number of possible cases which could mean we have been recording more serious cases in hospitals but not many other cases that are less serious. In future we must take in to consideration all these differences that have been stated, not to mention the differences in testing capabilities, policies and recording between each nation’s governments.

And on one last note, there could even be some doubt of just how long Covid-19 has been present in the UK as The Telegraph has reported on a man who visited the Austrian coronavirus hotspot of Ischgl within January that was suspected to have brought coronavirus back home to town of Maresfield, East Sussex. With the figures above this perhaps suggests that the UK government had a very difficult job to begin with, controlling a nation that revolved around the once ever beating heart that is internationally well-connected London.

So, when we all dare to pass comment on this crisis, maybe we should consider that not everything down to the Government’s actions, but that our nation was one of the most predisposed towards an emergency of this nature.

Photo Credit.

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