Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: The latest on what countries across Europe are doing to stop the coronavirus pandemic (updated)

(Editor’s note: This post is updated daily with the latest information from the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. However, numbers can vary widely between monitoring agencies as cases rise faster than they can be documented.)

The question is, has the pandemic peaked in Europe? Italy kept setting grim records the week of 22 March, with the number of deaths over any 24 hours periods far exceeding China. Since the virus emerged last December in Wuhan. China’s highest 1-day toll is 150 deaths, while Italy and Spain both have exceeded 600 on multiple days, according to Bloomberg, with a spikes of more than 900.

As Wuhan reopens, Italy has almost six times times the number of deaths as China, 17,000 in Italy to about 3,333 in China. See the latest information below on Italy.

But in Europe as of late, so many countries were reporting improving trend lines, with slowing rates of infection and deaths in 24-hour periods, that governments are plotting gradual reopenings. Austria’s and Denmark’s trends are so favorable that the countries’ leaders are planning a gradual return to normalcy and German officials were considering issuing immunity certificates to allow people to leave lockdown early. On 4 April, Luxembourg was the first expat center since 26 March to go 24 hours without a new death.

Noting improving trend lines, French officials were looking at lifting stay-at-home rules as part of the transition back to post-pandemic normalcy, according to Bloomberg.

Then on 7 April, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France all reported surges in deaths and/or new cases.

The good news is, unlike the United States and its short-term approach, France and other European Union countries are spending trillions of euros to make sure companies don’t close and workers lose their job in the event that the epidemic takes months, rather than weeks, to contain, according to the New York Times. The German government is rolling out an economic rescue package worth up to 750 billion euros, one of the most ambitious in the world, according to CNN. Germany also is assisting countries including France.

As of 2 April, 400,000 French companies had applied for aid to cover 4 million employees, or around 20-percent of the private-sector workforce.

Still, as China, South Korea and other Asian countries emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s still a dynamic environment in Europe, with 721,156 confirmed cases as of 7 April, up an aggregate 1,040 percent from 63,268 on 17 March and 57,654 deaths, up an aggregate 1,993 percent from 2,755 on 17 March, according to the World Health Organization. Basically, the number of cases quadrupled in two weeks, and deaths in the United Kingdom and other countries have started climbing rapidly.

On 1 April, the world passed a grim milestone – 1 million COVID-19 cases, with about half of those in Europe.

WORLDOMETER

Also on 26 March, both Italy and Spain surpassed China in number of deaths. In Germany, Italy and other countries, the rate of increase in confirmed cases is slowing, the “flattening” epidemiologists talk about.

Basically, there are two Europes in the Pandemic of 2020 – countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain with full-blown crises and countries such as Estonia and Denmark that are – so far – relatively unaffected. A few countries such as Malta still have zero recorded deaths, but aren’t on our list because they’re not significant expat centers.

Basically, the European Union and the Schengen Zone are on lockdwon until at least the end of April.

WORLDOMETER

For the latest data, access the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and Worldometer, a website that aggregates various data from population figures to environmental data. The site has a running coronavirus infection, death and survival page you can see here.

And though we’re not doctors, we do see a trend in the data of survivors exceeding deaths in countries such as Spain. Worldometer shows more than 294,000 recovering patients compared to about 76,000 deaths worldwide.

What’s amazing is the exponential speed at which the coronavirus has swept the planet from late January to early March, which you can see at right in this chart from Worldometer.

Also, we’d note accurate mortality rate estimates are impossible without knowing the actual number of people infected, which no one does because testing is uneven. According to medical experts, the majority of people infected with COVID-19 show few or no symptoms.

Finally, Estonian expat Anna Bubnova is in South Korean for her overseas semester through Fontys University in Eindhoven. Anna is sending us posts about the differences between the Korean approach and European, with the Koreans relying far more on technology to monitor contagion. “The second there’s a case discovered, everyone in the area gets a notification on their phones,” Anna reports.

Here’s her first dispatch.

WORLDOMETER

Austria

Austria crossed the 10,000-cases threshold on 31 March. But by 3 April, Austrian officials are planning a return to normal, with the rate of new infections slowing daily. Small shops could open as of mid-April.

There are multiple theories that coronavirus took hold in Europe after an outbreak at Ischgl ski resort in Austria, according to the New York Times and other media outlets. On 26 March, Austria extended a shutdown of the resorts to at least mid-April, essentially ending the ski season.

Austria isn’t fooling around, the first country in Europe to make face masks compulsory to enter supermarkets. With tough restrictions, data indicated Austria is past the worst, with infections dropping by 230 percent to 395 new cases on 3 April from a peak of 1,321 on 26 March.

On 4 April, Austria reported 246 new cases in 24 hours, the lowest number since 16 March.

On 30 March, the country reported its largest number of deaths in one day, 22, a record that fell on 7 April with 23 deaths.

Austria set up five regional coronavirus clinics, with the states taking the lead in organization, and the Alpine country also plans to ramp up testing to 15,000 people per day having already tested about 50,000, according to the Voice of America.

Medical experts credit aggressive testing for Austria’s relatively low death rate.

Earlier, Austria closed its border with Italy. Italians can only enter Austria with documentation proving they don’t have coronavirus. Austrians returning from Italy are required to self-isolate for two weeks. The country has banned gatherings of more than five people, using police to enforce new regulations. Those restrictions are now extended to 13 April.

All of the country’s federal museums are closed. Austria is creating a 4 billion euro crisis fund.

•••••

The government has advised there are only four reasons to leave the house:

• You are one of the essential service workers (medical, supermarket, pharmacy, emergency repairs or similar).

• You have to get groceries or sustenance.

• You are caring for an elderly person or someone who needs support from others.

• You have to take our your dog or have a walk. But only if you maintain the necessary distance from other people.

– Ivana Avramovic in Vienna

(Editor’s note: You can see her full post here.)

Number of reported cases: 12,881 up an aggregate 1,837 percent from 655 on 14 March

Number of deaths: 273, up an aggregate of 1,606 percent from 16 on 22 March

Number of patients recovered: 4,512, up from 9 on 26 March

Belgium

Belgium went from about 200 confirmed cases on 8 March to more than 23,000 as of 6 April and doesn’t appear to have reached the peak of the infection or deaths. The country recorded a spike in coronavirus deaths – 192 – in 24 hours on 31 March, then another spike 7 April with 403 deaths, 110 percent above the previous high.

New cases dropped by 112 percent to 876 on 31 March from a peak of 1,850 on 28 March, then leveled out at about 1,400 per day into April.

The Belgians are pushing to test 10,000 people per day, which means the number of new infections will rise.

At the end of March, Belgium imposed a nation-wide lockdown decree and start closing its borders to all non-essential travel. That said, Dispatches staffers checked the Netherlands/Belgium border crossing near our headquarters of Eindhoven and it was open with normal traffic.

The Dutch “whatever” approach has not pleased the Belgians, with Brussels blaming cross-border travel for increased infections. “In the Netherlands, shops are still open and meetings of 100 people are still allowed — these are breeding grounds [for the virus],” Marino Keulen, mayor of the Belgian border town Lanaken, is quoted as saying by Politico.

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said people should only go out in case of emergency or to supermarkets, pharmacies or doctors. Gatherings and meetings are prohibited, according the Deutsche Welle. Belgium extended its lock-down until 19 April, which seems to be the magic date all over Europe.

All recreational activities are canceled, with restaurants and bars closing through 19 April. Shops will close on weekends except for pharmacies and grocery stores.

Belgian officials already had suspended classes through mid-April including the Easter holidays (though schools will remain open) and Belgians had been asked to work from home, according to Politico.

All in all, Belgium’s approach is ranked as one of the more effective in Europe. Still, cases continue to rise, with Belgium’s health minister stating the peak lies ahead, and the country has the world’s third-highest number of deaths – about 141 – per million of population.

Number of reported cases: 23,404, up an aggregate 3,322 percent from 684 on 14 March

Number of deaths: 2,240, up an aggregate 55,900 percent from four on 14 March

Patients recovered: 4,681, one of the better outcomes in terms of a percentage of confirmed cases.

WORLDOMETER

Denmark

The Danes already are planning to lift coronavirus restrictions after Easter, according to Reuters. Those restrictions were only put into place early – on 11 March – but have yielded results. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said infection rates have slowed to the point her country can at least start to plot a gradual return to normal including opening schools.

And of course, just as Frederiksen said that, Denmark posted its highest number of coronavirus deaths on 1 April at 14, then posted the highest number of cases in a 24-hour period, 390, on 7 April, up from 312 the previous 24-hours. As of 5 April, Denmark is averaging about 320 new cases every 24 hours. And on 4 April, it recorded its highest number of deaths in 24 hours at 22, up from the previous high of 19 on 2 April. Deaths decreased to 18 on 5 April.

Denmark’s biggest problem right now is its proximity to Sweden, which has done pretty much nothing in the way of implementing guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. Which is starting to cause some friction.

Denmark closed all schools and universities on 13 March and started sending home public-sector employees with “non-critical jobs,” according to news reports. It also banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Then, it closed its borders to all non-resident foreigns until 13 April. Only returning Danish citizens and documented residents of Denmark will be allowed into the country, according to Forbes.

So far, it’s working, with Denmark recording one of the lower infection rates in per-capital terms and one of the slowest growing in percentage terms.

Non-essential public workers in Denmark are taking five days of vacation during the period of 29 March 29 through 13 April, when current restrictions are due to expire. The idea is to make available more staff once the coronavirus crisis subsides, Tax Minister Morten Bodskov stated on 27 March, according to Bloomberg.

Denmark is now famous for taking only 24 hours to craft and approve Europe’s biggest rescue package. The government will pay 75 percent of salaries at pandemic-hit companies to avoid mass layoffs. It’s also celebrated as the country that “perfected the art of the lockdown.”

Number of reported cases: 5,386 as of 6 April, up an aggregate of 544 percent from 836 on 14 March

Number of deaths 218, up from 1 on 14 March

Number of patients recovered: 1,621 up from 41 on 26 March

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