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Why the 'weekend factor' is affecting coronavirus reporting figures in Europe

A Spanish healthcare worker at a nursing home during the pandemic. Credit: AP

The coronavirus figure trend is still downwards across most of Europe, but an unwinding of the ‘weekend effect’ seems to be dampening some of the feel-good factor of yesterday.

In short, there seems to be a lag over the weekend as the figures on deaths and hospitalisations work their way through the system, such that reporting on Monday is artificially low, while on Tuesday the figures seem high as they catch up with reality.

So higher figures in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, as they were today in the UK. But at the same time elsewhere, some tentative steps to ease the lockdown.

Spain reversed four days of falling death rates with 743 reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total there to 13,798. The good news is that the trend is still downwards. The bad news, that Spain has now suffered more deaths per capita than Italy.

Medical staff working at a hospital in Italy. Credit: AP

Italy still seems to be heading very slowly in the right direction. Deaths have fallen very slightly from yesterday to 604, with new infections down by 500, and the numbers being admitted to intensive care down slightly again.

Among these raw figures, some tragic statistics on the toll that has been taken on medical staff. Five more Italian doctors have died of the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 94 dead, a truly horrifying number.

Some 26 nurses are also dead, with more than 6,500 medical staff infected across the country.

Sweden continues to be much harder hit than the other Nordic countries, with some pointing to their much looser lockdown rules as the explanation.

They have reported 114 dead in the last 24 hours, while the other four Nordics combined (Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland) just 35. When the response to this crisis is analysed with the benefit of hindsight, the case of Sweden will be examined with particular interest.

Sweden's lockdown has been less stringent that those in neighbouring countries. Credit: AP

France has announced another 605 dead in its hospitals, though the number may be higher when nursing homes are included. This is a recurrent problem with the statistics being reported across Europe: in many countries, including the UK, the published daily headlines only refer to those dying in hospitals, not those who pass away in nursing homes or at home.

A sunny weekend has, it seems, encouraged too many walkers, joggers and cyclists into the open spaces of Paris. From tomorrow going outside for exercise is going to be banned in the capital between 10am and 7pm.

Doctors in Greece have staged protests over a shortage of healthcare infrastructure. Credit: AP

Greece has seen a protest by doctors demanding more ICU beds, more staff, more equipment and the conscription of private clinics into the battle against the virus. The protesters kept scrupulously to social distancing rules.

Norway has set a date for the first return to school. Nurseries are to be allowed to open starting from April 20, with some schools reopening from April 27.