As countries attempt to restart, this tool tracks COVID-19's path across Europe

A vendor wearing a face mask works inside the store as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues, following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Catania, Italy, on 14 April 2020.

A vendor wearing a face mask works inside the store as the Italian government allows the reopening of some shops while a nationwide lockdown continues on 14 April 2020. Image: REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

John Letzing
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Jean-Philippe Coene
Growth Analytics Specialist, World Economic Forum
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  • While some European countries are easing restrictions, others remain under lockdown.
  • The World Economic Forum created a tool tracking the distinct path of COVID-19 within European countries.

Europe is starting down an uneven road to recovery.

Denmark is reopening society more quickly than anticipated, and Switzerland is eyeing the easing of emergency measures. At the same time, France has extended its lockdown period and the UK has said its restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future – as those countries continue to suffer dearly from the fallout of COVID-19.

The background for this disparity has been disagreement over matters including whether to jointly issue debt to fund Europe’s collective rehabilitation.

Europe’s patchy attempted return to normalcy might make retracing the coronavirus’s path across individual countries in the region instructive. The World Economic Forum has built a visual tool that offers a closer look at the spread of confirmed cases within several European nations.

For example, Italy, which has seen a north-south regional divide in terms of reported cases, has Europe’s highest cumulative death toll. Still, a limited number of shops in the country have been allowed to reopen.

Spread of COVID-19 in Italy.
Spread of COVID-19 in Italy. Image: World Economic Forum

In neighbouring Switzerland, the government announced measures including a ban on gatherings of more than five people in March but has been criticized for its targeted approach to testing. The number of confirmed cases in cantons including Italian-speaking Ticino and French-speaking Geneva far exceed those in some German-speaking cantons further north.

Spread of COVID-19 in Switzerland.
Spread of COVID-19 in Switzerland. Image: World Economic Forum

Spain has also seen a sharp disparity among regions in terms of confirmed cases. While the country’s death toll is second in Europe only to Italy, it has allowed some businesses to reopen, including those in construction and manufacturing.

Spread of COVID-19 in Spain.
Spread of COVID-19 in Spain. Image: World Economic Forum

Europe’s cautious moves towards re-establishing normalcy come after a disconcertingly rapid outbreak. The tracker tool also includes an illustration of the timing between first-reported cases in Europe and subsequent spikes in reported cases.

Timeline of reported COVID-19 cases in Europe.
Timeline of reported COVID-19 cases in Europe. Image: World Economic Forum

For more context, here are links to more reading courtesy of the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform:

  • COVID-19 has highlighted some basic things not working in the EU, according to this analysis: health is a public good but the EU has virtually no mandate for it, and the EU budget is too small to cope with a shock of this magnitude. (Institute for New Economic Thinking)
  • After a dramatic few days of negotiations, the EU’s 27 EU finance ministers agreed on an emergency rescue package that serves as a down payment on economic solidarity, according to this report. (Peterson Institute for International Economics)
  • The Eurogroup’s decision to reject “corona bonds” – collectively shared debt issued to respond to COVID-19 – exposed a fault line between its north and south and will leave destabilizing political scars, according to this report. (Social Europe)
  • Germany is now eyeing a reduction of public restrictions. Just seven days after the country implemented containment measures including the closure of schools and the cancellation of sporting events, the local COVID-19 growth rate fell by roughly half, according to this analysis. (Vox)
  • Almost nothing will be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the European Green Deal – the EU’s sustainable growth strategy – is no exception, according to this analysis. (Harvard Kennedy School)

On the Strategic Intelligence platform, you can find visualizations like the Europe coronavirus case tracker in addition to feeds of expert analysis related to COVID-19, the European Union and hundreds of additional topics. You’ll need to register to view.

Image: World Economic Forum

Pierre Saouter and Julius Schulte contributed to this article.

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