Spread of COVID-19 begins to show pattern of 4-8 week eruption cycle

Analyzing the specific data of each country separately suggests that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – and that the tunnel is not that long.

A medical employee presents a smear taken at a special corona test center for public service employees such as police officers, nurses and firefighters during a media presentation as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Munich, Germany, March 23, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREAS GEBERT)
A medical employee presents a smear taken at a special corona test center for public service employees such as police officers, nurses and firefighters during a media presentation as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Munich, Germany, March 23, 2020
It has been four months since COVID-19 hit the world. The virus, which caused major global disruptions to public health, economies and societies, planted massive worldwide panic of the unknown. Now, after several months, I believe a closer look at the numbers provides real ground for optimism with regard to how long this storm will last.
Despite being engaged in the medical equipment business for decades, I do not claim any expertise in biology, immunology, microorganisms or infectious diseases. Numbers, however, can provide an explanation to natural phenomena even in places where the relevant science cannot. After investigating several sources of statistics about the disease, its rate of spread, the rate of new cases, the death rate and more, a certain pattern emerged.
Most people are focused on the total number of patients, new patients and deaths worldwide. These numbers are ascending at a deadly pace, literally, and looking at the graphs gives a sense that they are climbing rapidly toward the end of the world. However, the specific data of each country, when examined separately, suggest otherwise. Although this is an early observation, it appears this disease has a periodicity of a classic Gaussian bell-curve shape wherever it appears.
Ignoring both tails of the graph, it indicates that this bell's life cycle is around six to eight weeks, with its peak appearing after about two to four weeks from the time when incidents begin to occur at a substantial rate. When looking only at global numbers as a whole, what is seen is an aggregation of Gaussian bells that join the game at various stages, which completely distorts the analysis of the data and the bell behavior.
Of the roughly 80,000 cases of morbidity in China, almost 85% appeared in Hubei, a province of 58.5 million inhabitants – roughly the size of a major European country such as Italy, the UK, France or Germany. The first cases of morbidity in China appeared in late November, but a daily rate of 100 cases began around January 20. In mid-February, the daily rate reached thousands. However, by March 6, it dropped back to about 100 cases per day and has been continuously declining since then. Within seven weeks the disease appeared, peaked and was suppressed almost completely.
Many doubt the Chinese figures and claim that the Chinese implemented extreme quarantine that cannot be performed elsewhere. But let’s take a look at the Republic of Korea. South Korea implemented a strategy of large-scale testing instead of massive quarantine. Dozens of daily new cases started to appear around February 20. By March 3, the daily rate had reached a peak of approximately 850 new cases. Since then it has been declining, and on March 15, it stabilized back at less than 100 new cases per day (with only two exceptions). Essentially, within five weeks, the significant level of the epidemic in Korea was suppressed and reached a daily rate that no longer presents a major challenge to the health system.
In Japan, on February 20, the rate of daily new cases was still approximately 10. Three weeks later, by March 15-16, it had climbed to a rate of roughly 50 per day, then started declining back to about 20 per day in the last two days. Japan, despite the small numbers, also seems to be following the Gaussian rule, and about five weeks after the onset of the disease, its rate of spreading is declining.
THE DATA coming from Iran are questionable, but since there are not many countries where the disease has materialized for over four weeks, it is worth examining its numbers. February 27 was the first time that Iran experienced a daily morbidity level of approximately 100 cases. Iran's peak day was March 14, on which 1,365 new cases were discovered. That was almost three weeks after the significant outbreak in the country. Since then, the daily morbidity rate is no longer climbing, which suggests that it reached the peak, and has even presented some decline to around 1,000 new cases daily.
The data suffer from various limitations. There is a lack of sufficient data, some of the data are unreliable, the perspective is too short and more. Still, it seems that there is a pattern that repeats itself in each country where the disease strikes. The current data suggest that the coronavirus has a cycle of peaking within two to four weeks after the onset, and culminating after seven to eight weeks. This is a phenomenon worth noting. If it is accurate, it provides a valuable tool for analysis and ground for decision making.
In Europe, the virus first hit Italy. On February 22, more than 50 new cases appeared. Since then, the rate of daily new cases has been rising, and on March 21, reached a peak with approximately 6,500 daily new cases. Sunday, March 22, was the first day the numbers started to drop, with 5,560 new cases, suggesting that the peak was March 21, 28 days from the first day, and that the cycle in Italy will roughly last 28 days.
The second country to show significant numbers in Europe was France, with 43 daily cases on February 29. The daily rate has been climbing since, reaching almost 1,900 on March 19, but has stabilized around this number since then. This suggests that France has reached its peak within 20 days since the virus first hit hard.
Another country that provides data that support this model is Germany, where the first date of significant daily new infections was registered on March 3, reaching 4,500 new cases per day on March 20, 17 days after the first day. The first decline appeared on March 21.  More or less the same behavior can be seen in Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Since the basis of this model is its locality, an analysis of the US should be conducted at a state level rather than the countrywide one. In addition, the US may be slightly more challenging to analyze due to the ongoing influx of population between the states.
And what about Israel? Assuming the disease first appeared in substantial numbers around March 10, the peak should be due to arrive around the first week of April, and from there begin to decline to only a few new cases per day toward the end of April.
It is reasonable to assume that the various measures taken by different countries and the different conditions may impact the length of the wave. However, if the model correctly represents the cycle of the coronavirus, then this pandemic, subject to such measures, is one that only lasts several weeks in each location it strikes.
Finally, we might be seeing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that the tunnel is not that long.
The writer is a lawyer, accountant and MBA, and the chairman of Redworth Capital Group, a global group that is focused on real estate, medical devices, movies productions and more, with offices in the US, UK and Israel. He also serves as the chairman of Mennen Medical Group – a leading medical devices developer since 1963.