Other countries’ COVID-19 experience so far doesn’t warrant UK GOV’s draconian response here

Bog-standard flu kills or proves to be the final straw for an average of 17,200 Britons every year.

That’s between 80,000 and 87,000 flu deaths in total since 2014.

Or an average of 91 deaths per day during the annual 27-week flu monitoring season: year after year after year.

How do those rates compare with what we expect from coronavirus?

Well, it means an average flu season in Britain kills thousands more people than have, so far, died after testing positive for coronavirus in Italy, Spain, China, France, Iran, the U.S. and the UK PUT TOGETHER.

Combined, those countries have logged 14,200 deaths at the time of writing.

Coronavirus is different from flu but it’s not all that unusual. Medically, it is different and nastier (for some) because this strain more-often causes lower respiratory infections. In older, already-sick people, it leads to pneumonia and death in a lot of cases.

On the other hand, it seems to kill people under 50 far less frequently than flu does.

But numerically, as we’ve seen, SARS-CoV-22 is not unusual. It’s another of the new strains of flu that come around every 10 to 20 years that no-one is immune to, which put more stress on the NHS than usual.

We can’t say how bad the UK’s outbreak will become, as we’re still, relatively speaking, in the foothills of our Covid-19 caseload.

Today the UK is at 9,500 Covid-19 cases and 461 deaths, or roughly five days-worth of flu in a normal year.

If we keep tracking the same path as Italy, we might have 7,000 deaths, from 80,000 cases at the the same point in our outbreak

But how likely is that? Britain brought in social distancing and then an almost total shutdown of the economy at a much earlier point in the outbreak than Italy. That may reduce its severity as well as spreading out the duration of the peak load on the NHS – it’s certainly why the government is doing it.

Confirmed infections in Italy, per million people, are almost 10 times higher than in the UK (from three-and-a-half times as many tests). Moreover, they are heavily concentrated in the north west of the country, with serious ones overloading the hospitals in a way that wouldn’t happen if cases were more evenly-distributed.

But that is not the point. Even if the downward slope of Italy’s death toll curve mirrors the upward one, and they eventually reach 14,000 deaths, they will STILL end up with fewer deaths attributed to Covid-19 than the UK attributes to flu in an average year – and nearly half as many as we registered during the 2017/18 flu season.

So why has the government decided to shred the economy, sacrificing millions of livelihoods to save possibly no more lives than the NHS already and magnificently saves during most flu seasons?

They keep telling us it’s to “flatten the curve” so that Covid-19 patients in need of hospital care won’t all crash down “unprecedentedly” on the NHS like a mighty wave.

I want to look at that argument in the next post. Because once again the actual numbers we’re seeing are vastly different to the hypothetical ones used to bounce the government into a frenzy of draconian measures and frighten people into going along with them.

Main photo by Jeff Hendricks on Unsplash