Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.

Coronavirus Math: The Number I’m Watching

How are different countries coping? What is the current case fatality rate?

30 March 2020
recovered dead total closed cases case fatality rate
Diamond Princess cruise ship 603 10 613 2%
Austria 636 108 744 15%
Australia 244 18 262 7%
Belgium 1527 513 2040 25%
Canada 573 65 638 10%
France 7202 2606 9808 27%
Germany 9211 541 9752 6%
Hong Kong 118 4 122 3%
Israel 134 16 150 11%
Italy 13030 10779 23809 45%
Japan 424 54 478 11%
Netherlands 250 771 1021 76%
Norway 7 29 36 81%
Singapore 212 3 215 1%
South Korea 5288 158 5386 3%
Spain 16780 7340 24120 30%
Sweden 16 110 126 87%
Switzerland 1823 312 2135 15%
Taiwan 39 5 44 11%
Thailand 229 9 238 4%
UK 135 1228 1363 90%
USA 4562 2489 7051 35% updated each Monday morning


Updated commentary, published March 24th, 2020:
In the span of seven weeks, the share of global reported coronavirus cases in China and Iran went from 99% to 23%. Theoretically, this means the overall quality of our data should be improving. But all of the numbers available to us are crude indicators – a snapshot at a particular moment in time, in a quickly changing environment, subject to endless shortcomings such as how much testing any country is doing, how much testing is financially possible, the nature of each country’s reporting mechanisms, how deaths get attributed in one locale vs another, and so forth.

For the past 3 weeks, the above table has been updated each morning. Going forward, it will be updated once a week – on Monday mornings. Here’s an overview of what’s happened so far:

On the 1st of February 2020, there were 12,027 reported coronavirus cases in the world
99% were in China (11,860)

On the 15th of February, there were 67,106 reported cases
99% were in China (66,493)

On the 1st of March, there were 88,377 reported cases
90% were in China (79,828)

On the 15th of March, there were 169,333 reported cases
56% were in China (48% or 80,849) or Iran (8% or 13,938)

A mere week later, on the 22nd of March, there were 353,759 reported cases
Only 30% were in China (23% or 81,093) or Iran (7% or 23,049)

At the moment, China still has the highest total (81,000) but Italy is catching up fast (64,000).

Italy, America, Spain, and Germany have all surpassed Iran. France is about to do so.



Commentary below published 4 March 2020:

Infectious diseases have case fatality (CF) rates. What percentage of patients who’ve been medically diagnosed with the disease die? What percentage recovers?

The SARS coronavirus killed 774 people in 2003, the vast majority of whom lived in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The SARS case fatality rate was 9.6%. The MERS coronavirus has killed 858 people, most of whom lived in Saudi Arabia. Its case fatality rate stands at 34.4%.

A week ago, COVID-19 had been confirmed in 40 countries. It has now spread to 80, having claimed twice as many lives as SARS and MERS combined. In many parts of the world, this disease is just getting started.

Two weeks ago, Italy had 3 cases and 0 deaths. Now it has 2,502 cases and 79 deaths.

Two weeks ago, South Korea had 31 cases and 0 deaths. Now it has 5,186 cases and 34 deaths.

The constantly-updated web page indicates that the global case fatality rate, calculated from ‘closed cases,’ is currently 6%. At the beginning of February it was 42%. Matters appear to be improving dramatically. As we learn more about a new disease, we get better at saving people’s lives.

But there’s a big problem with our data. China and Iran are nations in which information is tightly controlled by the government, and freedom of the press is non-existent. Numbers from these nations are inherently unreliable. Yet they have dominated our data set, swamping everything else. It’s important to know what’s going on elsewhere, to track the case fatality rate other countries are experiencing.

These are early days, and some of the numbers are going to wobble dramatically for a while. Each morning, I’ll update the table at the top of this page by 8:30 am Toronto/NYC time. ( currently takes multiple snapshots of the Worldometers coronavirus page each day. My numbers will come from the final snapshot the previous day.)

So bookmark this page, lovely person, and come back soon :-)

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  • SARS stands for: Severe Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a coronaavirus
  • The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says SARS was contracted by 8,096 people during 2003. 774 died. The case fatality rate was 9.6%.
  • The CDC says SARS spread to 29 countries. According to Wikipedia, 93% of the deaths were in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
  • MERS stands for: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says there have been 2,506 cases of MERS since 2012, including 862 people who’ve died. Case fatality rate: 34.4%.
  • The WHO says MERS spread to 27 countries. According to Wikipedia, 86% of the deaths were in Saudi Arabia.
  • Two weeks ago (on February 20th), journalist Pauline Macaraeg noted that while the WHO has been telling us COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be “as deadly as other coronaviruses,”  it had “already infected and killed more people than SARS and MERS combined.”
  • 774 SARS deaths + 862 MERS deaths = 1,636. As of March 30th, nearly 35,000 people have died from COVID-19.


Neither the WHO nor the CDC behaved in a trustworthy manner 10 years ago, after UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti following a devastating earthquake. Two books document those events. (For the record, I’m not personally acquainted with any of the individuals involved.)

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster is written by Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press journalist stationed in Haiti when the earthquake occurred.

Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-up in Post-Earthquake Haiti tells the story of Renaud Piarroux, a French physician who investigated the outbreak. Written by his medical colleague, it shows the WHO failing one moral test after another.

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
Jonathan Katz
Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-up in Post-Earthquake Haiti
Ralph Frerichs


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This entry was posted on March 4, 2020 by in health and tagged , .
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