BACKGROUND: To date, the European experience with COVID-19 mortality has been different to that observed in China and Asia. We aimed to forecast mortality trends in the 27 countries of the European Union (EU), plus Switzerland and the UK, where lockdown dates and confinement interventions have been heterogeneous, and to explore its determinants. METHODS: We have adapted our predictive model of COVID-19-related mortality, which rested on the observed mortality within the first weeks of the outbreak and the date of the respective lockdown in each country. It was applied in a training set of three countries (Italy, Germany and Spain), and then applied to the EU plus the UK and Switzerland. In addition, we explored the effects of timeliness and rigidity of the lockdown (on a five-step scale) and population density in our forecasts. We report r2, and percent variation of expected versus observed deaths, all following TRIPOD guidance. RESULTS: We identified a homogeneous distribution of deaths, and found a median of 24 days after lockdown adoption to reach the maximum daily deaths. Strikingly, cumulative deaths up to April 25th, 2020 observed in Europe separated countries in three waves, according to the time lockdown measures were adopted following the onset of the outbreak: after a week, within a week, or even prior to the outbreak (r2=0.876). In contrast, no correlation neither with lockdown rigidity nor population density were observed. CONCLUSIONS: The European experience confirms that early, effective interventions of lockdown are fundamental to minimizing the COVID-19 death toll.
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