In this March 23, 2020 file photo, coffins are placed on scaffolding in the Crematorium Temple of Piacenza, northern Italy, awaiting cremation due to the coronavirus emergency. (Photo: AP)
SAN FRANCISCO, April 7 (Xinhua) -- New COVID-19 estimates find that the peak daily death rate from the pandemic will occur during the third week of April among European countries.
The new forecasts, released on Tuesday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington's School of Medicine, finds that approximately 151,680 people will die during what researchers are calling the "first wave" of the pandemic. By comparison, the United States is expected to face 81,766 deaths, according to forecasts released on Sunday by IHME.
"We are expecting a foreboding few weeks for people in many parts of Europe," said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. "It seems likely the number of deaths will exceed our projections for the United States."
The death toll in many countries is compounded by the demand for hospital resources well in excess of what is available. For example, peak demand in the UK is expected to total 102,794 hospital beds needed compared to 17,765 available, 24,544 ICU beds compared to 799 ICU beds available, according to the research.
The announcement on Europe finds that most regions of Italy and Spain have passed their peaks in the number of deaths. Countries that are about to peak or are quickly approaching peak in this wave of the epidemic include the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, and Luxembourg. The Czech Republic and Romania are midway through their expected trajectories. Other nations including the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, and Greece are still early in their trajectories and face fast-rising death tolls through their peaks in the second and third weeks of April.
Murray cautioned that easing these precautions too soon during "the first wave" of the pandemic could lead to new rounds of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
"To decrease the risk of a second wave in places where the first wave is controlled by robust social distancing, governments would need to consider mass testing, contact tracing, and quarantines for those infected until vaccination is available, mass-produced, and distributed widely," Murray said.
IHME said that it started making projections of the pandemic's impact in the United States state-by-state on March 26.
Tuesday's announcement is the first set of predictions for European nations and is based on modeling the peak in death rates and hospital usage in Wuhan City in China, as well as data from seven European locations that have peaked, including Madrid, Spain; Castile-La Mancha, Spain; Tuscany, Italy; Emilia-Romagna, Italy; Liguria, Italy; Piedmont, Italy; and Lombardy, Italy. Of these eight locations that have reached the peak regarding daily deaths, only one, Wuhan, has currently brought new cases to nearly zero.