The number of infections in European countries is still very uncertain. This means that the only hard numbers we have for comparison are total deaths recorded. This is usually shown as a logarithmic plot for each country, but this fails to take into account differences in population. Therefore I have simply plotted the normalised deaths in each country per million citizens. This shows some interesting comparisons.
On this measure the actions of the UK government and NHS healthcare have been really quite successful. Germany has been the most effective at limiting the number of deaths, followed by Sweden. Belgium is clearly experiencing a dangerous increase in the death rate which means it has not yet got the outbreak under control. It is currently Europe’s hot spot.
There are regional differences in population density and distribution which partly explain some of these differences. The UK population is concentrated in London, the South East, West Midlands and Northern Cities. Germany has a more evenly distributed population with more towns and cities of smaller populations. Sweden has deliberately avoided a full lockdown and restaurants and shops remain open, but this is also probably helped by a low population density and a strong sense of social responsibility. Their policy does indeed seem to be working and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.
One of the consequences of reducing the reproduction rate R is that the epidemic slows down. If the unabated value of R is 2.4 the epidemic would all be over in about 2 months although at a heavy price. If R=1 the “epidemic” would continue indefinitely. So R has to be kept as low as possible until all cases are eliminated, which is probably impossible for the whole world, unless a vaccine is found.