Covid-19: Romania is at a crossroads, and shouldn't despair.

Looking at coronavirus data is a chilling exercise both in terms of total volumes of confirmed infections and deaths, and rates at which the disease spreads.

It is difficult to measure the spread rates or even extract qualitative trends from daily reports of confirmed number of cases. Testing practices may vary quite a bit from country to country and even within a country as the outbreak evolves: testing goes from comprehensive to more selective when testing capacities saturate. However, there is consensus that in full outbreak mode, the number of infections doubles roughly in 2-3 days. There is also little doubt on the fact that #stayathome policies are quite effective to reduce and stop the spread; it is also the only tool we have so far.

As countries take action to more accurately determine the total number of infections (for example by testing a representative population sample of tens of thousands individuals) we should prepare to face the fact that total infections are certainly higher and possibly much higher than the number of reported cases. Face-value this might sound like bad news, but it will also imply that the mortality rates are lower than the current deaths-to-confirmed cases ratio. It will also give super valuable information on the fraction of asymptomatic and milder forms of the disease.

Romania's #stayathome policies went from initial recommendations to more strict impositions about a week ago. They came in very early compared to other European countries, at a time when less than a couple of hundred confirmed cases and no deaths had been reported.

We are about a week into strict #stayathome mode, it is the coming few days that will tell Romanians (and, ahem, Romanian residents) whether hell will break loose or the spread of the disease will stay under control. There is, of course, nothing different to do right now, whatever happens will be a consequence of how well people #stayedathome, respected quarantine in the last week, how they (we) continue to do so in the coming week(s) and likely other factors such as the weather that are totally beyond our control.

This first week of Romania #stauacasa coincides more or less with the first week since the first reported death. Let's take a look at how this first week compares with first weeks of other countries and what are the possibilities for the second week. I will more or less arbitrarily compare to Italy, Spain and South Korea. For the reasons I mentioned above, I will focus on the number of deaths, and I really wish I could be focusing on production of apples or carbon emissions or pretty much anything else.

The figure below shows the total number of reported deaths vs. number of days since the first reported death(s).

Romania is clearly ahead in terms of deaths compared to its latin cousins or eastern distant relatives. This is certainly worrysome, but shouldn't be cause for despair. For Romania it is still low number statistics and hopefull it will stay that way. Keeping that caveat in mind, data does seem to hint that Romania's increase is consistent with linear; other countries like Spain, already showed signs of exponential increase in the number of deaths by day 7. South Korea has shown signs of flattening very early, and was able to keep the outbreak away all the way through.

It is really hard to talk about good news when people are still dying, but if the linear tendency is confirmed in the coming days that would imply that the number of infections is going down, which will soon reflect in the number of deaths by a flattening of the curve. This would certainly be good news. We will know soon enough...

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