Coronavirus: Apocalypse Unknown

Nothing adds up in the coronavirus pandemic. It will be years before anything does.

They’ve just announced the up-to-date death toll for the UK. 1,019 have died with the virus (not necessarily from it).

The UK keeps testing people: 120,776 to date. It keeps finding that nearly nine out of 10 don’t have it.

That’s not terribly useful knowledge. We need to find people who’ve already had Covid-19 and are most probably now immune, so safe to mingle again.

Then we can start getting back to normal. As things are, we could all remain partially locked-down for months, because anyone could still be a potential carrier.

Obviously we do need to identify people who’ve got the virus so they can be isolated. I think some people imagine that when someone tests positive, hazmat-suited emergency workers surround them and rush them to hospital.

Diagnosis by call centre

What actually happens, of course, is people feel a bit poorly so they either go to the hospital, or phone the doctor or 111.

Hospitals turn away everyone who isn’t clearly in need of immediate serious intervention. They’re told to go to the nearest coronavirus clearing house to be checked and hopefully given a test so they’ll get into the statistics.

If they get a test, many NHS workers could rightfully feel jealous because they’re not getting tested themselves.

Everyone I know who’s experienced definite Covid-19 symptoms has just called their GP or 111. They were told they probably had the illness and should isolate at home or 14 days along with their family, if applicable.

I’m guessing GP-diagnosed cases will eventually find their way on to the coronavirus balance sheet the same way that flu diagnoses do. If so, it’ll be the end of this year or later before we get a better idea of how many people probably had Covid-19.

Where’s the data on pre-existing serious conditions?

The same uncertainty surrounds deaths. Every patient who dies after testing positive for the virus is counted in the daily total for the epidemic.

But many – almost certainly most – of those patients were already ill with something else. Or they had all the frailties of very advanced age.

Something like Covid is the final straw; “the old man’s friend”. But most Covid deaths are people who would have found their way into this year’s mortality statistics anyway. The most we can say until all the data is gathered together is they died during the pandemic not because of it.

In short, we know very little about who has the virus or who has died solely from Covid-19.

We don’t know how bad this coronavirus is compared to regular strains of flu, except that 80% of identified cases are mild or unnoticeable.

We don’t know whether we’re actually saving lives in any meaningful sense buy submitting to lockdown.

We’re locked down because of a forecast made weeks ago by a team of academics that this coronavirus could be apocalyptically worse than anything modern society has encountered.

Only, now they’ve got more data, they say Covid WON’T be deadlier than a typical flu outbreak.

This may not be an experiment but I’m beginning to feel like a guinea pig

Photo by Caitlin James on Unsplash

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