Sunday 8 March 2020

Corona virus deaths may surpass numbers who died of flu two years ago

The Sunday Times says the British civil service think 100,000 deaths are the “central estimate” of numbers expected to die of the Corona virus. That's almost half the number who died in the UK in famous Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919, the worst pandemic in the modern era, which worldwide killed more people than the First World War. 

They are no longer talking about the worst case scenario of 500,000 deaths to prevent panic. 

The figure of 100,000 includes those likely to die from flu, which has averaged 17,000 over the past five years. To put 100,000 into context, due to a very unpleasant strain of flu in the UK the total number of deaths from flu in the year 2017-2018 was at one point estimated to be 79,000. The estimate was later reduced to 61,000 and then 58,000. No-one noticed or talked about it at the time.

Some middle-aged people in China have died, but overwhelmingly the deaths from the virus in China and elsewhere have been of people aged over 60 and usually over 70 who had serious pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

TCovid-19 has so far infected 80,000 people in China and killed more than 3,000, if you trust Chinese government figures, which I do not. This is out of a Chinese
 population of almost 1.4 billion. Italy, with a 60 million population, has seen more than 200 deaths from some 5,800 cases. The UK has 209 cases and two deaths, Romania 8 cases, all people freshly arrived from Italy.

Coronavirus has a mortality rate of around 2% in the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province, and less than that elsewhere, according to the Guardian, though 3.4% is the figure according to WHO. Flu usually has a mortality rate below 1%. Donald Trump said on Thursday, 'I think the 3.4% is really a false number' and he is right. 

He had a ‘hunch’ that the real death rate is less than 1% and this is probably right too. I quote from the Spectator:
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College was on the radio on Thursday making exactly this point. Referring to the outbreak in Italy he said: 'for every person who dies we think there might be 100 or over 200 people infected.' If he is right, that would give a death rate of one per cent or less – exactly as Trump has claimed.
We do not know how contagious the coronavirus is, though it seems to be moving fast across the world, due to the ease of modern travel. Of course, unlike for flu, there is no vaccine.


  1. the death rate in Italy now is approaching 5%. I would not put much trust in Chinese figures. Italy is also testing people on a wide scale.

  2. He had a ‘hunch’ that the real death rate is less than 1% and this is probably right too.

    I agree with Trump, and with you.

    You also have to remember than even with flu there are many many cases that never get diagnosed or reported because the symptoms are fairly mild. I certainly don't run off to a doctor when I get the flu, except on the rare occasions when I get a really bad dose.

    So the actual mortality rate of flu is probably well below even 0.5%. It could be below 0.25%.

    It's undoubtedly the same with coronavirus. Lots of people get mild cases and it never even gets diagnosed. So again the mortality rate is probably much lower than even the low estimates.

    We don't know what the actual infection rates are for any of these illnesses. The real infection rate could be twice the reported rate, or five times the reported rate.

    But the western media loves to whip up hysteria. And it's a great chance for politicians and bureaucrats to further their own agendas.