The German wave (or: how I learned to trust the model)

In late October, as Europe experienced a relentless second wave of COVID-19 infections, nations responded with several versions of a partial or full lockdown. Unlike the first wave in March, European nations diverged in the severity of their reactions – from a full lockdown in the Czech Republic to a much more relaxed ‘partial lockdown’ in Germany. Within a few weeks it became apparent that these difference in policy also had different results: While most European nations reached a peak in the weekly incidence rate and than saw a significant decline, some – most notably Germany – only managed to reach a plateau, with new infections remaining on the same level, give or take, testifying to a reproduction rate of just about 1. This steady states lasted for almost a month, before infections suddenly picked up again in early December , prompting a relatively strict lockdown in Germany from the 16th.

While Germany was in this steady state, I expected Germany to remain at about the same cPDI (composite Pandemic Danger Index). This, however, was not the case: starting from mid-November, Germany’s cPDI rose steadily, climbing from a not-so-bad 50 on Nov 20th to the mid-60s in early December and up to an alarming 75 (on the verge of our top ten!) on Dec 19th. This result surprised, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

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Is Turkey toast?

For our first blog post, I’d like to address a curious situation that anyone following Pandemonitor might have noticed in the past few days – the astounding ascent of Turkey, from a cPDI of 50.4 (46th in the world) on Nov. 25th, to a score of 89 (and 1st place globally) on Dec. 1st, just six days later. To analyze what happened, I turned to Turkey’s page on the “single country” section of the dashboard, and realized immediately that the rise in cPDI is based on a sudden ‘jump’ in the incidence rate (weekly new cases per 100,000 people), which occurred on Nov 25th and caused the reproduction rate (R) to jump to levels that we haven’t seen since March (2.5 and up). Moreover, the test positivity rate jumped at the same point as well, hitting almost 20% by Dec. 3rd, and the mortality rate seemed off a well, reaching 3.6%.

Turkey’s stats from the 3rd of December 2020

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