There are early signs that coronavirus outbreaks around the world are slowing down

A nearly empty Times Square in New York City on Sunday.

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A nearly empty Times Square in New York City on Sunday.
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Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • There is some evidence that the spread of the coronavirus is slowing around the world.
  • The numbers of new cases reported in Spain, Italy, the UK, and the US have recently declined, evident in data from Sunday.
  • It could be an early sign that nations are starting to get a handle on their outbreaks.
  • In an optimistic analysis, the total number of cases will continue to rise, but slower. But there is still a long way to go.
  • Death totals, which lag behind newly reported cases, will likely continue to increase even if a corner has been turned.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After weeks of lockdowns and travel bans, it appears that the rate of increases in new coronavirus cases is beginning to slow in some of the hardest-hit nations.

Charts from the data-tracking site Worldometer show the progress of outbreaks in western European nations that have been wrestling with outbreaks for several weeks:

New coronavirus cases in Italy declined over the weekend.

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New coronavirus cases in Italy declined over the weekend.
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Worldometers

The number of new coronavirus cases in Spain has also declined recently.

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The number of new coronavirus cases in Spain has also declined recently.
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Worldometers

The rate of new coronavirus cases in the UK appears to be declining.

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The rate of new coronavirus cases in the UK appears to be declining.
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Worldometers

All three have seen a similar trajectory: a recent peak, and then a decline.

It is difficult to judge a trend from this data alone, because the period showing the declines in new cases is too small. But some experts in those countries have also sounded optimistic.

In Italy, at a press briefing on Sunday, the government health adviser Luca Richeldi said that only 50 people that day needed to be taken to the intensive-care unit, compared with about 120 in the previous two days. He said he took it as a sign that Italy’s harsh lockdown was working.

In the UK, Neil Ferguson, the influential epidemiologist at Imperial College London, told the BBC’s “Today” program on Monday, “We can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators.”

He said to “look at the numbers of new hospital admissions today, for instance – that does seem to be slowing down a little bit now,” adding that “it’s not yet plateaued, as the numbers are increasing each day, but the rate of that increase has slowed.”

He said that deaths would likely continue to increase, since people with fatal infections tend to spend several days in the hospital before dying.

There are still many reasons to be cautious

The UK is also behind the other outbreaks in Europe, having put its people under lockdown only a little more than a week ago. So the effects of social isolation likely haven’t affected new case counts yet.

The case data is also choppy. Italy last week appeared to be registering a decline, only to surge back toward a record before dropping again.

New York City, the epicenter of the US outbreak, recently recorded its smallest daily case increase in a week. Farzad Mostashari, the founder of healthcare startup Aledade and a former national coordinator for health information technology at the Department Health and Human Services, was cautious, tweeting on Saturday, “We *may* have some early signals in public data that infections in NYC slowed.”

In the wider US, the picture continues to look bleak. Even President Donald Trump, who has consistently downplayed the threat posed by the virus, on Sunday abandoned his hope of reviving the US economy by Easter. Instead, he said, the country should regard it as a “very good job” if its death toll can be kept as low as 100,000 people.