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A Tortoise File

Fragile states

As the coronavirus crisis escalates, we’re all becoming accustomed to reading the line graphs tracking death rates around the world.

First published
Tuesday 7 July 2020

Last updated
Saturday 14 November 2020

Why this story?

As the coronavirus crisis escalates, we’re all becoming accustomed to reading the line graphs tracking death rates around the world. The sharp incline in the US, the impressive drop in China – and the almost comforting shallow gradient of South Korea. In Britain, we look to Italy, where deaths have now overtaken those in China. We track the lines and ask ourselves: are we just a few weeks behind them?

But there is more to this question. Italy has 2.62 acute care beds per 1,000 people. The UK has fewer – 2.11. As we race to prepare ourselves for the peak in Covid-19 infections and a surge of patients in our intensive care units, Chris Cook has investigated how a decades-long obsession with efficiency – and a disdain for spare capacity – has left our state so poorly prepared for a crisis. Basia Cummings, Editor

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