As Italy struggles to contain a major COVID-19 outbreak, its hospital capacity has come under unprecedented pressure. Last Friday, 4,636 cases of the virus were reported across the country and that has now increased to just under 12,500. By Tuesday, there were 5,791 cases of COVID-19 in Lombardy with 446 people in intensive care units. Medical staff have reported that Northern Italy's health system, one of Europe's best resourced, is approaching breaking point.
In mid-February, a Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention paper found that while just over 80 percent of all COVID-19 cases had been mild, another 13.8 percent and 4.7 percent were classified as severe and critical respectively. That has led to serious questions being raised about critical care bed capacity not just in Italy but in other countries braced for major outbreaks. If the case count continues to climb at its current pace, intensive care units will come under huge pressure.
This infographic pulls together data from three sources to show where that pressure could be highest by highlighting the number of ICU beds per 100,000 of the population in different countries. For example, a paper pubished in the Intensive Care Medicine journal that used 2012 data stated that Italy had 12.5 ICU beds per 100,000 of its inhabitants that year while Germany had 29.2. A separate paper from the the National Center for Biotechnology Information pubished in 2015 states that the United States has even more - 34.2 critical care beds per 100,000 people.
Another more recent analysis published in the Critical Care Medicine journal earlier this year highlighted ICU bed capacity across Asia. South Korea is finally experiencing some success in containing its outbreak, primarily due to a major testing push, and its ICU bed capacity stood at 10.6 beds per 100,00 people in 2017. In China and India, the figure is lower with 3.6 and 2.3 critical care beds per 100,000 of the population respectively.