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The importance of data during COVID-19

Yesterday was the first day that I saw this new chart on the ABC, prepared from modelling undertaken by the University of Sydney. In my opinion, the single most effective visualisation that has been presented to the general public of Australia to date. It did what any good visualisation should do, tell the story of the data in a simple way. From this everyone can understand what they need to do and the consequences of their actions.

Across the globe we are seeing governments take action to reduce the rate of infection and defend their populations from COVID-19. The restrictions and the time at which they are being applied differ from country to country. A question on my mind has been how does Australia compare to other countries and what have been the impact of the different approaches?

How does Australia compare to other countries and what have been the impact of the different approaches?

There are two charts that are important to consider, the rate of new infections and the rate of deaths. The charts below have been taken from an article published by Raif Barbaros ( Ideally we want to see an exponential decay like China, South Korea and all countries on the chart below with the exclusion of the US.

For the chart below, we want to be over the peak and decaying. We can see that China and Italy appear to be displaying the right shape. The other countries however have not yet passed the hump. This may mean that they are approaching the hump, or that they are not doing enough tests to be reporting the actual number of infections.

So what measures have been taken for each country?


The first official death from COVID-19 was reported on the 11 January 2020 in China ( Wuhan was in lock down from 23 January 2020 and the Hubei province followed a couple of days later. This was 12 days from the first death.


The outbreak commenced on the 21 February 2020, at this point they had 21 cases. Italy placed all residents on lock down on 8 March 2020, 16 days after the start of the outbreak at this point they already had 7,375 cases. Their lockdown involves restriction of movement to necessity, work and health. Importantly essential services are limited to grocery stores and pharmacies.

The chart of infections starts at the date when each country had 150 infections, for Italy this was the 23 February 2020, lockdown was implemented on day 14 and their peak of infections occurred on day 21 so just 7 days after the strict lockdown was implemented.


Spain went into lockdown on 15 March when 294 people had died and 7,988 people had been infected. The Spanish lockdown is similar in extent to Italy with movement restricted except for work and essential travel, such as to buy food and medicine, visit health centres and banks, or look after elderly and vulnerable people. Non-essential shops as well as bars, restaurants, cafes, football grounds and cinemas have been close.

Spain hit their 150 infections on the 3 March 2020 and went into lockdown on day 12. Spain is currently at day 22, 10 days after lock down. They have had a false peak already and still haven't started to see the decay phase of the recovery.


France went into lockdown on 16 March when 148 people had died and 6,633 people had been infected. The French lockdown is similar in extent to Italy and Spain. Police are also able to issue fines for people caught breaking the restrictions.

France hit their 150 infections on the 2 March, and went into lock down on day 14. They are currently on day 9 of lock down and yet to hit their peak of infections.

United Kingdom

The UK rolled out their lockdown on the 23 March 2020 at this point they had 6,650 cases and 335 deaths. Their measures are essentially the same as the Italy, France and Spain. Unlike in Australia, they have made it very clear what is expected of the population. That they must only leave their houses for necessities such as food and medicines (as infrequently as possible) and to exercise at most once a day in public. They have also outlined essential workers to a much smaller group being health staff, postal workers, teacher, transport and utility workers. It is only these workers that are able to send their children to school.

The UK is on day 20 post their 150 infections which occurred on 6 March, and at day 3 of the lock down they are also yet to hit their peak.

New Zealand

New Zealand have been the most proactive of all the countries. On the 25 March their number of infections hit 155. On the same day they rolled out their stage 4 restrictions, similar to the other European countries above. It is to early to tell what impact that this will have on the infection rate of COVID-19 on their population. We do know that it will ensure a much smaller number of infections. What is also unclear is how they roll off of restrictions and avoid a second wave of infections.


The PM and Premiers have been rolling out increasing restrictions. Today we are being encouraged not to leave our houses. Our essential workers are "anyone with a job", which means that a very large number of people are still potentially moving to and from work. Additionally, we still have retail shops, cafes and restaurants and a swag of food delivery people on the streets. We can also still get a haircut and have a personal training session outside with 9 of our mates, or send our kids to school if we want. Even without the mandatory restriction being used in the countries above, our people seem to be reducing their movement.

From the comparison to the countries above we are still yet to deploy the same level of restrictions. Australia had our 150th case occur on the 12 March, 14 days ago. The table below shows the comparison of each of the countries and would indicate that we are at least 1 week away from the peak if we were to deploy more restrictive measures and most likely more than a week given our current restrictions.

*Infection and fatality data from

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