Strangely, the paradox of having so much data in the world is that it’s almost impossible to make head or tail of what any of it means without using the interpretative tool of analysis, or to put it more simply narrative.
And quite what the narrative around coronavirus will look like once the dust has settled on the coronavirus crisis remains open to question, because right now different datasets are flying at us from all directions and no-one yet really knows which ones are meaningful.
Yes, cases are rising, and the virus is spreading. But how bad is that? The truth is we won’t really know until it’s over. By then we’ll know whether late March was just a warm-up for the main act, or actually close to the apex of the main event.
It would be nice to suppose the latter, and one analysis certainly does point that way.
Pantheon Macroeconomics, a boutique research house with offices in London, North America and Asia, released two notes on 22 23 March pointing out that the rate of growth of coronavirus cases appears to be slowing in Europe. Since Europe is commonly accepted to be the global flashpoint for the virus at the moment, this can only be good news, always assuming that we know how to read and interpret the data.
To be clear, the virus is still spreading, and the absolute number of cases is still increasing. But according to the interpretation placed on the European data by Pantheon, the rate of the spread is slowing.
Pantheon shows in graphic form how average daily case growth dropped markedly over the course of the weekend in Switzerland, the UK, Belgium, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, France and Italy.
“This is not definitive evidence of anything,” cautioned Pantheon. Nonetheless, it added, the data is “very striking.”
“We need to see a good deal more data before we can ne sure that the latest numbers are meaningful and sustained.”
However, Pantheon also added an optimistic note.
“If these numbers are correct, though, and are sustained and then confirmed by the deaths data, they will mark the beginning of the turning point in Europe’s battle against the virus.”
The situation in the US remains less certain, as data gathering efficiency is very variable across the country.
Pantheon also stated that because global testing for coronavirus is so inconsistent, death rates are in fact a more “reliable indicator” overall, but also said that data on these lag new infections by about two weeks.