The Volokh Conspiracy

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Coronavirus Daily Death Rates by Country

Very high in Italy and Spain, followed by France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, followed by Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Austria, the U.S., and Germany.


Every day in the developed world, about 20 to 30 people out of every million die. (The typical yearly death rate is about 7.5 to 10.5 per thousand, depending on how many younger people there are compared to the elderly; 7,500 to 10,500 per million, divided by 365, equals 20 to 30 per million per day.)

Judging by the WorldoMeters data from the last three days, here is the mortality owing to coronavirus, which pretty much adds to that daily death rate (averaging deaths over the last 3 days):

  • Italy and Spain, with 14 to 17 deaths per day per million.
  • France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, with deaths in the 4 to 5.5 per million range.
  • The UK at a little under 3 per million.
  • The US, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, and Portugal, at a little under 1 per million (Germany, 0.9) to a little under 2 per million (Denmark, 1.85); the US is at 1.2, though the daily numbers in the US have risen sharply in the last two days. (Keep in mind, of course, that some of these comparisons may be less significant if countries have different protocols for listing cause of death.)
  • South Korea, China, and Canada are very low, below 0.25 per million (though there may be reason to be even more skeptical about Chinese data than about data generally).
  • Japan and Taiwan have been barely hit at all; likewise for most of the rest of the world outside some Western European countries that I haven't listed. (Russia is ostensibly in this category, though no Russian ever trusts numbers from Russia.)

Of course, the numbers can be much higher in particular regions. News accounts report that 84 people died per day in New York City Thursday and Friday. Over a population of 8.6 million, that's about 10 deaths per day per million, not far off the national Italy and Spain numbers.

Likewise, most coronavirus deaths in Italy are still in Lombardy: 542 in one day, apparently Friday, out of a population of 10 million, for a daily death rate of 54 per million. That means that in Lombardy the daily death rate is basically triple the usual number. (Of course, especially since the dying are mostly the elderly or chronically ill, a much higher than usual death rate now will probably mean a considerably lower than usual death rate after this epidemic passes, because there will be fewer elderly, more-likely-to-die people left, assuming those who survive the illness won't be permanently weakened by it. But in the meantime, it's still people dying sooner than they otherwise would.)

The question, of course, is where are we going? (And, while we're at it, what's with this handbasket?) Will the daily surplus death rate substantially increase? Will it substantially decrease? How quickly? That we do not know.