Focus: COVID-19

We inaugurate a new format for EDJNet's newsletter: once a month, we send out a special newsletter with a thematic focus, while the standard newsletter comes out every two weeks. Here's the March focus. 

Published On: March 31st, 2020
Focus: COVID-19_62ccaa14744c0.png
Focus: COVID-19_62ccaa14744c0.png


Focus: COVID-19

We inaugurate a new format for EDJNet’s newsletter: once a month, we send out a special newsletter with a thematic focus, while the standard newsletter comes out every two weeks. Here’s the March focus. 

Yes, we’re all on the same boat. Silvia Merler  is tracking the spread of COVID-19 across different countries, and essentially everyone in Europe is on the same track of Italy – as governments have finally started to realise, introducing lockdown measures in most member states. 

What’s really going on? 

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If you want to keep track of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, pretty much all the large media outlets have developed their own charts, maps, and tables – let us just give a shoutout to the Financial Times . Outside journalism, one of the best sources is the always excellent Our World in Data, which now has a special page on coronavirus . The Johns Hopkins University is also providing a great service , and of course the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is a reference point . Whenever possible, at EDJNet we like to move below and beyond nation-states: Le Grand Continent tried to do just that, with a EU-wide regional map  of cases. 

To understand what is really going on – and what the realistic prospects and policy options are – Tomas Pueyo’s post on Medium  (“Act today or people will die”) constitutes an excellent source, along with the preliminary study  from the University of Oxford on the relations between COVID-19 and demography. On the Italian case, Matteo Villa  is providing food for thought on a daily basis on Twitter.

What is the European Union doing?

It took a while for European leaders to realise that COVID-19 was going to affect the entire continent (and beyond). EU institutions are finally dealing full steam with the pandemic: although the EU has no competence in the health sector, it can provide coordination among governments and sanitary authorities, financial support – and, most importantly, it can temporarily ease public debt containment rules, so as to allow member states to implement contingency and relief plans for businesses and health care. VoxEurop has published an appeal  for the adoption of urgent measures to address the pandemic at the European level. 

Once the peak of the health emergency will have passed, expect a lot of debate (and divisions) on deficit, investments, austerity, and solidarity within the EU (or lack thereof). Among many others, Alberto Alemanno Guillume Duval  and Politico Europe  are already reflecting on this.  

Our Quote Finder tool comes in handy if one wants to track the rise in attention by the EU institutions, and it makes it easy to find and filter what they’ve been saying about COVID-19: 

How can the data community help?

As for transparency and civic hacking initiatives, the Italian government’s decision to release data on GitHub  was widely praised (they also publish a dashboard ). Maurizio Napolitano reported  on a civic hacking initiative that was taken in Wuhan, and few days ago a civic hacking platform  was set up for Italy. A useful Coronavirus Tech Handbook  is also circulating, while the Data Visualization Society has published a call for action

One of the critical problems posed by COVID-19 is the overburden it poses on Intensive Care Units in hospitals. Yet the data on ICU beds in Europe that is circulating is outdated: you can help us update them by filling one or more cells here

The International Fact-Checking Network and Facebook have partnered to support the fact-checking community working on COVID-19 related misinformation with a budget of $1 million. Applications  are open to the fact-checking units that are active members of the #CoronaVirusFacts alliance and to IFCN’s verified signatories. The deadline is 1st April 2020; accepted applications will be awarded grants up to $50,000.

Data analysis and visualisation: dos and don’ts

We’re all flooded with a volume of data and charts related to the pandemic. It’s easy to get lost in all those numbers – one needs to be particularly cautious in comparing data, as they may be collected in different ways. Criteria on how to do tampons on possible infected people vary from country to country, and so do data on confirmed cases and fatality rates. 

“Flatten the curve”  may turn into one of the most impactful success stories of data visualisation ever, but there’s also a lot of inaccurate dataviz out there – and a lively debate is going on about the virtues and limits of different ways of presenting data: 

Lots of stories and angles to develop

The COVID-19 pandemic and all what comes with it cross with so many topics that it will be approached from countless angles. What’s the impact of lockdown measures and of the state of emergency on democratic freedoms? What will the economic and financial impact of the crisis be? How will the public debate be affected, and which political actors will come out stronger? How is it like to be exposed to COVID-19 if you are homeless or in prison? Will teleworking and digitalisation move forward across Europe? And what about disinformation and misinformation? 

To explore some of these topics, our Useful Data collection could be a handy starting point. That’s where we’ve been reviewing useful sources for people interested in European issues. For instance, one could look at data on public health in Europe, at the OECD Health Care Quality Indicators, or at the data on health in prisons. The availability of medical personnel  is also a critical aspect (we covered the problem of the shortage of doctors in Europe in the past). To form an idea on the current state of public opinion in relation to COVID-19, the Infodemics observatory  developed by CoMuNe lab also provides interesting hints.

Roberta Bertoldi contributed to this thematic issue. 

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