How important is the COVID-19 Pandemic?
I believe that the coronavirus epidemic
is a threat unlike, is exaggerated more than
There is no doubt that this pandemic is serious, and that sadly many people will die after being affected by Covid-19. The government (not just here but across the world) are certainly taking it very seriously, based on the best medical advice.
There is a school of thought that notes that the numbers dying from other causes like winter flu don’t get the same level of attention, but have always been there. Further the measures put in place will cause long term damage, not just to ‘the economy’ but to people’s lives.
See the arguments set out below and then decide what you think.
It's critically important
Lots of people could die
The death rate in Wuhan, where the disease originated, was originally estimated at 4.5% but is now estimated as 1.4% by researchers at the University of Hong Kong. If you divide the deaths in the UK by the confirmed cases you get 7%. However, that figure isn’t real see EpidemicDrive – the numbers only include people tested positive – many more will have had the disease.
The Chief Medical Officer for England said the worst case scenario is that 80% of the UK population could be affected, and looking at a death rate of 1% as looks likely that would be 500,000 deaths. But these figures are just estimates – we have no idea really.
It leads to serious problems
The Covid-19 disease affects the respiratory system, as do SARS and Mers, other coronaviruses. It’s nowhere as deadly as these, but much more infectious. The video below explains how it affects your body – basically it starts with a high temperature or a new continuous cough or breathing difficulties. In severe cases this can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and even death.
Who is most at risk?
It is true that some people are asymptomatic (show no symptoms) and otherrs only suffer mild symptoms. You are at increased risk if you:
- are 70 or older
- are pregnant
- have a lung condition (asthma, COPD or bronchitis
- Have a heart condition
- have kidney or liver disease
- have diabetes
- have a weakened immune system (as a result of HIV or taking steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- are vey overweight (BMI over 40)
This is a form of zoonotic virus – i.e. transmitted from animals to people, like Ebola, HIV and rabies, as well as SARS and Mers. This list also includes mad cow disease (CJD), Zika virus and swine fever. These diseases have higher death rates.
The coronavirus is novel (i.e. we haven’t seen it before) and slippery (mutates quickly). and there seem to be two strains existing already, so it could mutate again.
Who knows what the next strain will do?
Look at the overall death rates
If this is such a deadly disease, we should look at whether more people dying than we would expect.
In the week ending 20 March 2020 there were 10,645 deaths registered in England and Wales, a decrease of 374 from the previous week. The average over the last 5 years was 10,573, so this is marginally higher. 103 mentioned coronavirus – 1.0% of all deaths. (ONS – different from government figures as different reporting).
Figures now include deaths where Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 ws mentioned anywhere on the death certificate – not always the main cause of death.
In this week 12, 18% of deaths mentioned “influenza or pneumonia” or covid-19. For the 5 year average, more – 20% – of deaths mentioned “influenza and pneumonia”.
Coronavirus deaths are lower than other than other infectious diseases such as flu.
Look at the death rate for coronavirus
The Uk death rate looks like 7% at the end of Q1 2020, but that’s not right. This only counts people tested and found positive. Most of the testing in the UK has been in hospitals, where there’s a lot of ill and susceptible patients, and only includes really and obviously sick people.
When the UK had 500 diagnosed cases Sir Patrick Vallance suggested the real number was between 5,000 and 10,000 cases – 10 to 20 times higher. This reduces the death rate to something like flu.
Look at how deaths are recorded
In the UK if someone dies of a respiratory problem the cause isn’t recorded unless it’s a’notifiable disease’ such as pneumonia. We don’t test for flu or similar, and if the patient has cancer or motorneurone disease we record this as the cause of death, so we under-report deaths due to respiratory infections.
We have now added Covid-19 to the list of notifiable diseases (which include anthrax, smallpox and rabies!) so that every positive test has to be recorded. So no matter what the underlying condition or how serious, we note Covid-19.
The US CDC record weekly estimates of flu cases, and note that since September flu has infected 38 million people, hospitalised 390,000 and killed 23,000.
Also, how can the death rates in Germany be so low compared to Italy? It must be the way we are recording the data.
How effective is the lockdown?
The government is responding to science and trying to act responsibly. However, we have taken huge steps without concrete evidence of potential disaster or proper view of the science.
We won’t measure the deaths caused by mental illness and suicide due to the lockdown, or people not being treated for other issues, or lack of food especially in underdeveloped countries, or damage to jobs and lives, as these aren’t as easily categorised!
You can see more below, or go back to EpidemicDrive or Home
This is just so emotive and people are frightened, of both the disease itself and the consequences of the steps taken to deal with it.
We believe that there should be a balanced view, taking into account all the facts and uncertainties. It’s too easy for the chattering classses to sensationalise things and spread misinformation and fear and doubt.
How much news is about anything else these days? The splits in the country over Brexit are no longer mentioned (except by some political die-hards!).
We face difficulties not only in avoiding the disease but in returning to a normal life after all this is over – let’s understand the difficulties ordinary people face, whether it’s working on the front line now or not being able to work or run a business owing to the lockdown.
You’ve seen more detail on the different points of view, and also what YouDrive’s view is. You can go back to FitnessDrive by clicking the button here.
NHS provide information on coronavirus and advice on symptoms and self isolation
The government publish daily information on the number of cases and more information
The NHS as part of their every mind matters provide advice on maintaining mental wellbeing during this time
The World Health Organisation provide a global update on the coronavirus epidemic
This infographic from the South China Morning Post has fascinating information on the virus
This world map by John Hopkins University is updated daily and has many worldwide facts
The European CDC have a chart updated daily which shows how the curve of people affected by COVID-10 is progressing – available in the Post from Visual Capitalist here
The World Health Organisation have an interesting paper on how infectious disease epidemics can be managed download it here
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released their 7th update on the coronavirus – download it here
Imperial College have been advising the government on coronavirus actions. Download their update from 30 March here
Glocalities did a survey online in China between 23/1/20 and 13/3/20 looking at attitudes to lockdown