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A World War 2 Trilogy

By FRED NATH (Novelist and Neurosurgeon)

Fred's Blog

Blog

Covid-19 [4]

Posted on 31 March, 2020 at 3:50
I realise most of it isn’t rocket science, but as a neurosurgeon, I’m used to looking at figures of outcomes and mortality. I’m puzzled.
In January last year the winter mortality in the UK was just about 1500 deaths per day. The daily death rate fell to around 1200 by 31 March 2019. The cause of the excess deaths (1500 – 1200 = 300) was due to an increase in respiratory infections, mainly in the elderly.
I have not seen the current daily death rates for this year, but it remains unclear to me whether the figures given out for Covid-19 are to be included in the normal daily death rate or whether they are on top of the known seasonal excess winter death rates. It is puzzling because I have a suspicion that a proportion of the people dying from Covid-19 would have died from another respiratory illness (influenza, bronchopneumonia) in any case. The only way to know would be to look at the effect that Covid-19 has had on those figures. The Office of National Statistics indicates that in the week beginning 13/3/20 11,019 deaths were registered. The comparable average figure during the previous 5 years was 11,205. There is no significant difference between the two as far as I can see but maybe I’m missing something.
You might be thinking that Covid-19 figures have not been taken into account yet, but when you think about it, the figures we have are related to the testing statistics – number of cases = number of positive tests in people admitted to hospital because they have become seriously ill.
The figures bandied about indicate around 200 deaths per day at present. If the mortality from this virus is 1-3% (we’ll call it 2%), then the over all incidence in the general population is probably around 10,000 ((200 x 100)/2). This makes little sense when others suggest up to 50% of the population may have been exposed to the virus.
The fact is we have no idea how many people are or have been infected, because only a selected group have been tested and all it tells you is the number of hospital admissions who actually have the virus in their nose/throat.
Once the antibody test is available things will become much clearer. We will have a better understanding of who has been exposed and who is probably immune.
I guess in a round about way, all I’m saying is the information given out generally is confusing and there just isn’t enough data about the general population’s exposure to predict anything.
There is an article in The Spectator which is interesting:


It makes the point that many deaths due to Covid-19 may simply be an incidental cause of death in people who would have died of another virus in any case. I sincerely hope it’s true.

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