Using only 14-day notification rate of new COVID-19 cases for travel guidance is another example or irrational measures


Many European countries (such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland), demonstrate their fight with the virus by vigorously redrawing the maps that culminate in a scheduled generation of the red or black lists. The problem here is that this new geography is based on one single “miraculous” number! The brand new 14-day notification rate of new COVID-19 cases. It is daily updated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention on Control (ECDC). However, I wonder how many of those new cartographers 1) have read what actually the ECDC says about the interpretation of data; 2) understood the text; 3) taken into account? The ECDC states, that the 14-day notification rate of new COVID-19 cases should be used in combination with other factors including testing policies, number of tests performed, test positivity, excess mortality and rates of hospital and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions, when analysing the epidemiological situation in a country.

If such European polite tone is not understandable, I can translate it to a more comprehensive shorter and straightforward version – this rate is invalid for policy and political decisions! Where else have seen that policy is based on a single “nude“ number?

Secondly, some even dare to call this rate as a cumulative incidence. Another sign of complete incompetence. The incidence in epidemiology is usually explained as the number of illness commencing, or persons falling ill. It is already known that a significant part of those infected do not have any symptoms. For instance, the primary results from Italy show that 74% of all infected individuals aged less than 60 years did not develop symptoms (please note, this is a pre-print). Since when the absence of symptoms is considered to be a disease and since when the laboratory data are called the incidence?

Thirdly, as many other communicable diseases, this one also has an outbreak characteristic. Where is the logic to implement travel restrictions, i.e, repaint the whole country in red or black, when there might be only one local outbreak? How much it can impact another citizen in the same country located a thousand kilometres away?

All this is very far from epidemiology; it is what can be called “politdemonology“. And it is a discreditation of epidemiology and Europe, alongside with a mask of the combat imitation.

Dr. Andrius Kavaliunas, epidemiologist,

Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Opinions are those of the authors and does not necessarily represent the Health Care Outcomes Institute.