Monday 23 March 2020

Lies, damned lies and statistics

All figures for mortality rates and for numbers infected with the virus are suspect. All dead and dying people in Italy are tested for the virus although they are usually dying of something else, whereas in Germany dead and dying people are not routinely tested for the virus. This is much of the reason that Germany has far fewer cases of the virus than Italy.

According to Professor Walter Ricciardi, scientific adviser to the Italian health minister, 'only 12% of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus.' Yet, he says, 'all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus.'

Researchers at Imperial College London predicted between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths in the UK from Covid-19, but the authors of the study have conceded that many of these deaths are part of the normal annual mortality rate, which in the UK is 600,000 people per year. Many would have died anyway.

I do not know, because I am not a virologist, if the biggest problem is the number of deaths taking place this year or the fact that the deaths are happening at the same time, depriving many dangerously ill people of beds.



    1. Thank you - very interesting - though a week old.

    2. Professor John P.A. Ioannidis of Stanford University is by repute a brilliant man. From the article you post,
      "If the health system does become overwhelmed, the majority of the extra deaths may not be due to coronavirus but to other common diseases and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, trauma, bleeding, and the like that are not adequately treated. If the level of the epidemic does overwhelm the health system and extreme measures have only modest effectiveness, then flattening the curve may make things worse: Instead of being overwhelmed during a short, acute phase, the health system will remain overwhelmed for a more protracted period."

    3. Toma
      19 March 2020 at 20:29

      If we assume that case fatality rate among individuals infected by SARS-CoV-2 is 0.3% in the general population — a mid-range guess from my Diamond Princess analysis — and that 1% of the U.S. population gets infected (about 3.3 million people), this would translate to about 10,000 deaths. This sounds like a huge number, but it is buried within the noise of the estimate of deaths from “influenza-like illness.” If we had not known about a new virus out there, and had not checked individuals with PCR tests, the number of total deaths due to “influenza-like illness” would not seem unusual this year. At most, we might have casually noted that flu this season seems to be a bit worse than average. The media coverage would have been less than for an NBA game between the two most indifferent teams.

      A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data
      By JOHN P.A. IOANNIDISMARCH 17, 2020

  2. I ran across the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, which thinks about the tail events that could destroy civilization.

    Here is a nice thought to keep you up at night, given how unprepared our governments have revealed themselves to be. It's an old thought, but perhaps one our governments will start to take more seriously:

    ...there is a trade-off in natural pandemics between transmissibility and lethality – if a pathogen kills its host too quickly, the host can’t infect many other people. But due to biotechnological advances, it may soon be possible to engineer pathogens to be more infectious, more fatal, and to have a delayed onset – and so be far more dangerous.

    New breakthroughs like the targeted genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 are increasing our capabilities; and the cost of DNA sequencing/synthesis and the hurdle of expertise are rapidly decreasing. ...

    An engineered pandemic could escape from a lab, or it could be deliberately used as a weapon. During the 20th century several countries had state-run bioweapons programmes, and we know of several non-state groups that have attempted to acquire bioweapons.

    Almost singlehandedly, one postdoc was recently able to recreate horsepox (similar to smallpox, which killed 300m in the 20th Century) from scratch in only six months. Capabilities that were once only in the hands of governments will soon be within reach of non-state actors.

    A novel pathogen, designed to be deadlier than anything in nature, could severely affect the entire world. As Lord Rees has said “The global village will have its village idiots, and they'll have global range”.

    Now think about a terrorist group or a country developing both the virus and the vaccine, which would take a year to develop otherwise. It's like a James Bond movie, except entirely realistic.

  3. Germany has a much younger population than Italy.

    1. Countries by Median Age

      Place Median Median Male Median Female

      Monaco 53.1 years 51.7 years 54.5 years
      Japan 47.3 years 46 years 48.7 years
      Germany 47.1 years 46 years 48.2 years

      Italy 45.5 years 44.4 years 46.5 years


    2. Interesting, read an article about Berlin being younger. Just a mistake. No need to get so testy and personal.

      Here are some insights as to why Germany has a lower rate.

    3. And more from those communists at the Wall Street Journal.