At the outset of 2020, the world looked on as China grappled with an outbreak that seemed be spiraling out of control.
Two months later, the situation is markedly different. After aggressive testing and quarantine efforts, China’s outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) appears to be leveling off.
Now, numerous countries around the world are in the beginning stages of managing their own outbreaks. March 15th, 2020, marked a significant statistical milestone for this, as confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China surpassed the Chinese total.
The tracker above, by Our World in Data, charts the trajectory of the growing number of countries with more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As the number of new infections reported around the world continues to grow, which countries are winning the battle against COVID-19, and which are still struggling to slow the rate of infection?
What’s Your National Infection Trajectory?
As of publishing time, 39 countries have passed the threshold of 100 confirmed cases, with many more countries on the cusp. By comparing infection trajectories from the 100 case mark, we’re able to see a clearer picture of how quickly the virus is spreading within various countries.
A rapid “doubling rate” can spell big trouble, as even countries with advanced healthcare systems can become overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases. This was the case in the Lombardy region of Italy, where hospitals were overloaded and an increasing number of medical staff are under quarantine after testing positive for the virus. Nearly 10% of COVID-19 patients in Lombardy required intensive care, which stretched resources to their breaking point.
Other countries are looking to avoid this situation by “flattening the curve” of the pandemic. In other words, preventing and delaying the spread of the virus so that large portions of the population aren’t sick at the same time.
Original concept by Drew Harris
While all the countries on this tracker are united behind a common goal – stamping out COVID-19 as soon as possible – each country has its own approach and unique challenges when it comes to keeping their population safe. Of course, countries that are just beginning to experience exponential growth in case numbers have the benefit of learning from mistakes made elsewhere, and adopting ideas that are proving successful at slowing the rate of infection.
Many jurisdictions are implementing some or all of these measures to help flatten the curve:
- Encouraging social distancing
- Encouraging working from home
- Closing schools and other institutions
- Placing hard limits on the size of crowds at events
The following chart explains why this last measure is critical to limiting the spread of the virus.
View the interactive Event Risk Assessment Tool here.
In scenario B above, which assumes just 20,000 active cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., there’s nearly a 50% chance an infected person will be attending a 10,000 person conference or sporting event. This is precisely the reason why temporary limits on crowd size are popping up in many jurisdictions around the world.
Direct losses due to canceled tech conferences alone, such as SXSW and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, have already surpassed the $1 billion mark, but despite the short-term economic pain of cancellations and decreased entertainment spending, the costs of business-as-usual could be incalculable.
Visualizing Population Density Patterns in Six Countries
These maps show the population density of several countries, using 3D spikes to denote where more people live.
As of 2022, Earth has 8 billion humans. By 2050, the population is projected to grow to 10 billion.
In the last 100 years, the global population more than quadrupled. But none of this growth has been evenly spread out, including within countries.
This series of 3D maps from Terence Teo, an associate professor at Seton Hall University, renders the population density of six countries using open-source data from Kontur Population. He used popular programming language R and a path-tracing package, Rayshader, to create the maps.
France and Germany: Population Density Spikes and Troughs
Let’s take a look at how the population spreads out in different countries around the world. Click the images to explore higher-resolution versions.
France is the world’s 7th largest economy and second-most-populous country in the EU with 65 million people. But a staggering one-fifth of the French population lives in Paris and its surrounding metro—the most populous urban area in Europe.
Many residents in the Paris metropolitan area are employed in the service sector, which makes up one-third of France’s $2.78 trillion gross domestic product.
Unlike France, Germany has many dense cities and regions, with Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and Cologne all having over a million residents. Berlin is the most populated at 3.5 million residents in the city proper, and 6 million in the wider urban area.
That said, the relatively recent reunification of West and East Germany in 1991 meant that post-WWII growth was mostly concentrated in West Germany (and West Berlin).
Italy and Chile: Coast to Coast
In Italy, another phenomenon affects population density and urban development—a sprawling coastline.
Despite having a large population of 59 million and large metropolitan areas throughout, Italy’s population spikes are closer to the water.
The port cities of Genoa, Napoli, and Palermo all have large spikes relative to the rest of the country, as does the capital, Rome. Despite its city center located 15 miles inland from the sea, it extends to the shore through the district of Ostia, where the ancient port of Rome existed.
Meanwhile in Chile, stuck between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, population spikes corroborate with its many port towns and cities.
However, the country is more concentrated than Italy, with 40% of its residents congregating around the capital of Santiago.
Turkey and Canada: Marred by Mountains and Climes
Though Chile has difficulties with terrain, it is relatively consistent. Other countries have to attempt to settle many different climes—regions defined by their climates.
Mountains to the south and east, a large, semi-arid plateau, and even a small desert leave few centers of urban growth in Türkiye.
Predictably, further west, as the elevation comes down to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, population spikes begin to heighten. The largest of course is the economic and cultural hub of Istanbul, though the capital Ankara is also prominent with more than 5 million residents.
In Canada, the Rocky Mountains to the west and freezing cold temperatures in the center and north account for the large country’s relative emptiness.
Though population spikes in Western Canada are growing rapidly, highly populous urban centers are noticeably concentrated along the St. Lawrence River, with the Greater Toronto Area accounting for more than one-sixth of the country’s 39 million people.
According to the World Bank, more than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and that trend is only growing.
By 2050, 7 out of 10 people are projected to live in cities. This congregation makes cities a beehive of productivity and innovation—with more than 80% of the world’s GDP being generated at these population centers.
It’s in this context that mapping and studying urban development becomes all the more important, particularly as policymakers try their hand at sustainable urban planning.
As Teo puts it:
“By showing where people are (and are not), they show us where political and economic power is concentrated, and perhaps where and who our governments represent.”
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