In the UK we are accelerating into the next onslaught from COVID-19. On Tuesday 29th September the global death-toll from passed the 1 million mark. Once again, I am compelled to produce a separate post, focusing on Novel Coronavirus as it would have taken over my monthly journal and dwarfed other transformational events that are taking place, that would have seemed inappropriate. However, I do want to create a record that factually summarises were are with this dreadful disease and captures my thoughts about the impact it is having on our world. I’m documenting this post because I don’t want to forget how shocking this situation really is. For the million souls who have already perished to the disease, for their loved ones, and for those who will perish ot COVID-19, my thoughts and payers are with with you tonight.
The headline image was taken from the Worldometer website at the time of writing. The latest update of this graphic can be reached on this link. Images below are also linked to the source websites, click on the images to go through the source websites for the latest position..
Further down I’ve included a linked-image of today’s dash-board from John Hopkins CSSE which is fast becoming the standard reference website for an aggregated view of the current global situation.
The UK’s Track and Trace systems are in a much better place than it was a few months ago. There is broad consensus (in the press) that we have one of the highest capacities for COVID-19 testing in Europe, but there is still huge room for improvement in currency and accuracy. On reflection, this puts a better perspective on the startling increase in COVID-19 cases reported in the UK this month. Given the death-rate in April it appears likely that the COVID-19 infection figures reported in March / April were (and remain) significantly understated.
I am troubled by many reports last month (August) of reductions in Nightingale Hospital capabilities and ward closures. I acknowledge that the Government is caught between a rock and a hard place. If the economy is to survive then it is important that don’t squander precious resources and imperative that we strive towards some semblance of pre-COVID normality. However, the timing of these reductions are questionable given that we have known all along that COVID-19 will be returning with a vengeance this autumn.
Of all the people I know, and from what I can glean from the press, it seems that UK citizens are generally adapting well to the continual Coronavirus threat lurking in a darker part of our consciousness. We we are acclimatised to reducing transmission rates by a combination of social distancing, wearing masks in public places, being more meticulous about washing hands, cleaning surfaces and generally avoiding physical contact etc.
Areas around the country where the infection rate has been rising more rapidly are now routinely subject to more stringent restrictions on movements, gatherings and contact. These locally imposed measures are under the control and management of the local authorities where the increases are being tracked and measured and the data is in the public domain.
My first study of COVID-19, published in in February, included analytics collected from the first outbreak in China. This data suggested a natural R0 number (transmission/reproduction rate) of 2.2. This meant that if COVID-19 was left unchecked, each infected person would pass the virus on to (on average) 2.2 people. The COVID mortality rate observed at the time was about 2%, i.e. the death rate for people who had been infected.
Fast-forward (to today): I’ve been looking at the country-level mortality rates being measured by the Coronavirus Research Centre at John Hopkins University. As you’d expect, COVID mortality rates vary significantly by country. India, for example, is currently measuring a mortality rate of 1.6%, I was surprised to see a higher COVID mortality rate of 2.8 in the US. By far the highest COVID mortality rate is Mexico, currently running at 10.4 with the UK close behind at 8.4%. I find this shocking and am hoping that this huge variance has something to do with the way these numbers are being captured and reported.
When I looked at these alarming statistics I pinged out a WTF post to a small and well informed group on WhatsApp. I was advised that what looks like a complete imbalance is indeed caused by the way the data is recorded and reported and that the UK figures included people who’d died ‘with COVID’ rather than ‘of COVID’.
Regardless of the above interpretation, given that the UK current has a COVID-19 mortality rate of 8.4 , and given the number of ‘daily new cases’, I guess we may see a jump in the daily death rates (of people who died ‘with COVID’) to around 580 per day in the next two to three weeks.
It seems that the UK is better prepared for this second onslaught of COVID-19 (as we peaked at around 1000 deaths per day in April). None the less, we must hope and pray for an early break-through with a vaccine, in particular for the older folk, as the older you are the more scary things may appear.
The dashboard above shows the global situation at the time of writing this post. This is a clickable image that will link directly to the John Hopkins CSSE dashboard for the latest /up-to-date position.