The IO Corona in Europe column is coming to an end in this final episode after more than a year. To get straight to the point, the number of new infections is once again a lot lower than last week.
This is starting to sound a bit repetitive, but at least for the moment the Delta variant is not causing any major headaches in the Netherlands. In the first part of this two-part finale you could read where this is currently the case in Europe. The number of European countries that are faced with new surges is increasing week after week and, with a probability bordering on certainty, this will also happen in the Netherlands over the coming months as well.
Is it a coincidence that the pinnacle of the (modest) Hotspot Top 10 are all in or near the Dutch southern province of Zeeland? Probably wise to do some sample testing there. The number of municipalities with zero new infections within a single week did not even fit on the map anymore, so much so that two columns are now needed.
These include Boekel in Brabant, which was one of the hardest hit places in the Netherlands during the first weeks. Haaksbergen and Cranendonck also had weeks when they were the fiercest hotspots in the country. Nothing is left of that now. The fact that a lot can change in one month is best seen on the slider chart below.
Looking back and ahead
After more than one and a half years and one and a half million corona diagnoses, you would think that by now, the Netherlands would have an excellent grasp of how to keep a pandemic under control. Of course, it would be an unmitigated shame if we were to repeat last year’s viral vacation souvenir scenario, especially now that we are even starting to get close to the total population in terms of jabs. But since vacations are a fundamental constitutional right, even the Netherlands (which claims to have a careful, finely honed and intelligent pandemic plan) cannot escape such forces of nature.
How exactly has this past six months played out for the Netherlands? For the final chapter, here are two maps that show the pandemic in its full magnitude. We hear daily how many new diagnoses the GGD Municipal Health Services have made. But when added all up, this has turned out to be a considerable proportion of the population. What’s more noteworthy is that the differences between municipalities are quite substantial, especially for such a small country. Whereas the north of the country was able to play the ‘we-don’t-do-carnival’ card last year (the annual carnival festivities down in the south of the Netherlands sparked corona at the start of last year, ed.), the differences with a lot of other places are huge.
Bunschoten is the diagnosis champion of the Netherlands, but that picture is somewhat misleading because this is where an experiment was running in which testing was carried out on people without any symptoms, as is common in Denmark. Just like back in February, Hardinxveld-Giessendam is the municipality with the most corona diagnoses. At least 15.4 percent of the residents there have been infected with corona at some point,. This is almost four times as many as the Wadden Island of Texel.
A total of 9.61 percent of the Dutch population received bad news from the GGD in the past sixteen months. This map is prepared in the style that the map maker on duty originally kicked off with.
Breathing space for hospitals
The biggest risk of a pandemic lies in the exponential growth in the number of seriously ill patients who need hospital care. That has been the rule of thumb from day one. At the moment, the situation is relatively calm again as far as corona patients in the intensive care units are concerned. But healthcare staff still have a lot of backlogged work and surgeries to catch up on.
These maps barely show any overlap because during the first wave hardly any testing was being done. Yet the crowded hospitals spoke for themselves back then. This is what the cumulative numbers look like at the moment. It is very clear to see that the northwestern part of Gelderland was the loser at the start. Plenty of hospitalizations, but not so many diagnoses. This is indicative of a lack of testing which was indeed the case at the time. The tiny island of Vlieland was the only municipality to maintain its zero fatality record. None of the 68 islanders who have tested positive to date have had to be treated in hospital.
The urban heat map
For the Corona in Europe column, which in this second part is not so much about Europe as about the Netherlands, the heat map that shows 22 European countries side by side from week to week has been a regular feature. I had never made anything like this for the Netherlands, but such a fiery visualization can say much more about the course, pattern and distribution of Covid-19 than the maps can.
Since a heat map is anything but clear given that there are more than 355 municipalities, the one only depicts the 32 largest in the Netherlands. It is also impossible to fail to notice the drop in virus prevalence over the past month. Although this did go a little faster in some cities than in others. Alkmaar is this week’s front runner, however, these are still not numbers to be too concerned about.
The holidays are just around the corner
Hedonistic fun with each other should be this summer’s magic formula for forgetting all about the pandemic. That the microscopic scourge is only a shallow inland sea away from us in a country that we all envied because of their rapid vaccination strategy should not spoil the good times.
So where will your trip take you? Spain and France remain undiminished in popularity. Yet Germany, Belgium and Portugal are also popular vacation spots. What exactly is the latest on the pandemic perils over there? Varied. In order to capture this in a single image, part three of the Benelux maps shows the entire southwest of Europe. Because this map is zoomed into greater detail, you can actually see how things are going in the place where you want to forget about all your cares for the next few weeks.
Spain is also starting to show some dark patches on the map with the high season just up ahead. While France and Germany are completely safe for the time being.
Corona in Europe and South America
Have you got another destination in mind? Then here’s the classic Corona in Europe weekly chart, which before this swan song was never as extensive as it is now. Still, one thing is certain: You can put that trip to South America out of your mind for now. Actually, continental Europe is caught between two fierce fires. Moscow is suffering from the toughest week since the crisis began and the Brits had also imagined a slightly different summer.
A second harsh winter
On the other side of the world, June doesn’t signify summer but winter instead. Here too, countries just can’t seem to get the virus under control. The subnational South America map clearly shows that social get-togethers seem to be out of the question here as well for the time being.
Peru – the country that has comparatively the most deaths from corona worldwide – seems to have dodged the bullet for the time being. The Colombian capital Bogota was the hardest hit in the past week. That a high vaccination coverage is not a panacea is proven by Uruguay and Chile who had their vaccination campaign up and running faster than almost the entire Western world. Unfortunately, this has not been able to protect them from the virus wave that is now sweeping across almost the whole continent.
Corona map crafter
When I realized back in February last year that this pandemic was not going to skip the Netherlands, I really wanted to map out this world event. No sooner said than done. In the evening of February 27, I started up Adobe Illustrator to color the municipality of Loon op Zand. The rest is now history. Within the space of a year and a half, I’ve learned to deal with big data in countless languages, I no longer shrink from a design job and I’ve mastered a skill that I have wanted to master ever since I was a child: Cartography.
What did that first map look like? It was, I have to admit, nothing special. But I was given plenty of time to practice. In the video below, hundreds of corona maps of the Netherlands have been put together into a sequence of a few minutes. This created a unique retrospective in cartography that transcends several waves. Actually, pandemics are quite predictable. You just have to keep an eye on the right numbers involved.
It’s been great, time to wrap up
Why am I ending Corona in Europe? Not because the subject or the maps no longer interest me. Consider it a matter of self-protection. Regular readers will have noticed that my visualizations have become more and more megalomaniacal. Doesn’t this take up a lot of time? The answer is yes. A great deal of time. Time and focus that, moreover, is preoccupied with the subject of corona on which I have been interpreting figures for a year and a half now.
Yet behind every editor there is also a flesh-and-blood human being who is very hard on themselves and has lived in a kind of ‘pandemic survival mode’ up until today. In order to break free from this, I am treating myself to a carefree summer and it is essential that programs such as Illustrator and QGIS should not be touched by yours truly for the foreseeable future. Corona may not be done with us yet, but I am done with my corona life. Something that needs to be worked on.
To achieve this, full social distancing from the subject is essential, as at times making these maps has even seemed a bit like an addiction. Would you like to thank me for my articles, leave a tip, or grant me some severance pay or a holiday bonus? Then you can do that easily and quickly via Backme.org.
By the way, would you like to use any of my datasets for your own work or update them yourself? Then please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Think you can’t do it? I couldn’t do this at the beginning of last year either. In case you missed the video, the following is what my very first corona map looked like. My knowledge of Excel and QGis was minimal, and I had only mastered a few basic skills in Adobe Illustrator.
Nevertheless, the programs I work with have not changed in all this time. I still import the data with Excel (or Apple Numbers for the colorful tables), the surfaces are colored in the open source cartography program QGIS and I add finishing touches to the corona maps in Adobe Illustrator. The latter is optional if you do not have a problem with graphic design and layout.
Handy vacation link list
Collecting data from all kinds of informative – and less informative – government sites is an essential part of keeping track of everything for the Corona in Europe column. Given that the Delta variant can completely change the situation in a vacation country within a very short period of time, it is advisable to stay very well informed about the latest developments.
Four weeks ago, there was nothing to worry about in Lisbon, Portugal, whereas now, new restrictions have been enacted there. Not something you want to get caught up in or be surprised by as a tourist. Here are a number of countries + useful links. This will help you to travel wisely and hopefully avoid a viral hangover.
Re-open Europe map – The overview for vacationers
As far as data collection is concerned, the ECDC are definitely not the fastest, but they do offer an exceptionally handy overview map that shows the corona policy in all the individual EU member states. With their traffic light system based on measures, virus prevalence and the proportion of positive tests, you can see at a glance where you can and cannot go.
Our World in Data – All the obscure data visualizations you could ever want
Are you interested in comparing countries on hundreds of different metrics? That’s what these nerds are all about. Their embeds of tables and maps are used by journalists around the world
Worldometers – the world rankings
Our World in Data is not particularly convenient if you want to find out quickly how the pandemic is progressing in a particular country. For this purpose there is Worldometers, a simple ranking of all countries on earth that is refreshed daily and also monitors weekly trends just as is done on the Corona in Europe map.
Covid.observer – Data without any bells and whistles
Do you just want the raw numbers without any clarifications, value judgments or interference from a government? That’s what Covid.observer was created for. A treasure trove of information for seasoned data nerds, less useful for those who just want to know if there are any restrictions in place in a certain country.
My list of sources
As my research has been completed, there is no longer any value anymore in me being secretive about how I get these figures from everywhere . Most countries in Europe not only offer their own open data on this, though they should also provide information to people who do actually plan to spend money in their country after visiting their websites.
Austria – https://covid19-dashboard.ages.at
Belgium – https://www.sciensano.be/en
Bosnia and Herzegovina – https://www.koronavirus.hr/en
Czech Republic – https://onemocneni-aktualne.mzcr.cz/covid-19
Estonia – https://koroonakaart.ee/en
France – https://www.sante.fr
The Robert Koch Institute (also very useful for clarifications and their English language epidemiological reports, the approach taken by the renowned RKI formed the basis for my European corona map, I did a lot of my analyses with a pair of ‘German glasses’ on).
Hungary – https://koronavirus.gov.hu/#/
Croatia – https://www.koronavirus.hr/en
Latvia – https://covid19.gov.lv
Romania – https://cetrebuiesafac.ro
Russia (data) –
United Kingdom – https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/
Brazil – https://covid.saude.gov.br
Paraguay – https://www.mspbs.gov.py/covid-19.php
Surinam – http://www.covid-19.sr/