Friday, 27 March 2020

Covid-19 virus update, 27 March

My spreadsheet from figures at Worldometer
Big jump in new cases, 63,642, though that may be because I accessed the figures a few hours later than usual. We’ll know tomorrow, if I get them at the usual time of 00:15 GMT.

Some (potentially) good news:

(1) Two professors of medicine at Stanford Medical School say the death rates may be much lower than we currently estimate (eg, as above, 4.53%, or WHO: 3.5%). The reason is, they suggest that the actual infection rate is likely much higher than we estimate. That’s good news, because if the infection rate (as opposed to just those who have tested positive) is higher it means the rates of hospitalisation and death are lower. Perhaps orders of magnitude (times 10) lower.

(3) An Oxford University study suggests half the UK population may have contracted the disease and already got  over it, perhaps without even knowing. That, again, would be good news by indicating a much lower death rate (Financial Times, $).  PDF of the study.
There are sceptics (Live Science).

(3)  The  UK government has lowered the risk level of the virus — it is no longer considered a High Consequence Infectious Disease — and indicated that it has enough ICU beds to handle the outbreak,(New Scientist).

(4) Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson revised downward the projected number of deaths in the UK to 20,000. Down from half a million earlier projection (!). That’s hugely consequential given that the higher figure was used as justification for the UK lockdown. (
All this means that a constant balancing and rebalancing is needed,
with new data, to work out how long and how severely we have to keep lock downs in place. It may turn out that the “herd immunity” strategy that the UK started with, may turn to be correct. Watch Sweden, or Holland  where they have not adopted strict lockdowns.
“All models are wrong, but some are useful,” statistician George Box supposedly once said—a phrase that has become a cliché in the field... The modellers’ mantra. And another example where even experts don’t always agree, sometimes get it wrong, and have changed minds: “herd immunity” vs lockdown. Keep schools open vs close them. Masks are useless vs we should all wear masks. It’s understandable. Interesting article at Science magazine.
By the way, I’m not with the “a single death is one too many” crowd. That’s not being serious. If a single death is one too many, you would allow no-one to go to work, any time, anywhere: people die in accidents on the way to work; people die at work. Yet I’ve been criticised for “not caring” or being “heartless” for suggesting that public policy has to consider relative risks — of deaths and of a crashed economy, that I, as a Boomer, am willing to take of more risk (of death) if that means that the economy, our kids and grandkids, can get back to work.
Working out that balance is exactly the responsibility of our politicians. To weigh those up. They have to “Meta Triage”.
A pandemic of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Click on the “Conspiracy Theories” Label below to see all my posts on the subject. My latest, with a collection of rebuttals to the most egregious conspiracy theories, was on 19th March.

Meantime, stock markets posted huge rallies over the week, 20%+
Is this xenophobia? I dunno. China bans all foreigners because all recent cases were imported.
The Internet Archive has opened its library of 1.5 billion books
A random chyron: 560,000 people in the UK have volunteered to help NHS.