“Help, help!” cried Piglet, “a Heffalump, a Horrible Heffalump!” and he scampered off as hard as he could, still crying out, “Help, help, a Herrible Hoffalump! Hoff, Hoff, a Hellible Horralump! Holl, Holl, a Hoffable Hellerump!”
And he didn’t stop crying and scampering until he got to Christopher Robin’s house.Winnie the Pooh (1926) by A.A. Milne
It beats me why Piglet doesn’t get his name on more COVID stories in my daily paper.
Yesterday’s not-at-all-meant-to-scare-people number was 90,000. That’s the daily total of “new Covid cases” in the UK according to a deliberately misleading front page splash in the i newspaper.
Not true. 90,000 isn’t even the figure for actual positive tests. It is SAGE’s high-end estimate of daily infections, the vast majority of which will be symptomless and often not contagious.
But the pathetic specimens who run the paper knew full well how people would read the phrase “Covid cases up to 90,000 a day”. They wanted readers to think nearly 100 thousand people a day were falling ill with COVID-19.
Every one of paper’s editorial Piglets knows full well that positive cases are not the same as medical “cases”. Eight out of 10 people who test positive neither have symptoms at the time nor go on to develop any.
Ace reporter Piglet and his scary tale writer colleagues also know that when the rate of false positives is higher than the population infection rate – which it is – up to 90% of apparent positives will be false.
Makes you wonder why the media are so fixated on tests. Especially when the Bill and Melinda Gates – sorry, World – Health Organisation previously warned countries that the PCR test wasn’t good enough to diagnose SARS or MERS cases on the basis of a single test alone.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK chief scientific officer, also fully understands all of the above. He probably knows too why the WHO suddenly changed its advice around the PCR test this time round. And on the general ineffectiveness of cloth masks.
Nevertheless, he relayed to the media the estimate from SAGE’s pandemic modelling group that between 53,000 and 90,000 people in England are being infected with coronavirus every day.
But hang on a minute. If this modelling (also known as over-educated guesswork) suggests there are 90,000 new infections a day at this late stage, what does that say about the epidemic so far?
Count back to 21 February this year, the date of the first positive test in the UK, and you get 245 days. 245 multiplied by 90,000 daily infections equals 22.2 million infections so far.
Twenty-two million people is almost exactly half the population of England.
Even if we use SAGE’s low-end figure of 45,000 infections per day, a full quarter of England’s residents must have already have had COVID and so can now be considered immune. They are no longer an infection risk to themselves or others.
So where do SAGE get off with their baseline assumption 14 out of 15 people in England (seven per cent) still haven’t been exposed to the virus? It’s on that unlikely supposition that they rest their whole case for continuing to destroy countless livelihoods in the name of saving relatively few lives.
“‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,’ a United States major said today.” Source – Wikipedia
Yet yesterday we read Sir Patrick casually confirming that far more than seven per cent have already been infected. And, as any epidemiologist worth their salt will tell you, that should be a cause for optimism, not to go crying and scampering all the way to Christopher Robin’s.
Because, with the current English death rate from/with COVID of around 80 people a day, Vallance’s estimate of 90,000 daily new infections gives an infection fatality rate (IFR) in England in late October of 0.09%.
Yes, Cynthia, that is roughly the same as seasonal influenza. Not to mention ten times lower than Ferguson’s infamous initial prediction on which this whole sorry mess was predicated.
Vallance’s low-end estimate of 45,000 infections per day would double the IFR to 0.2 per cent. If that was right, and assuming 45 thousand to be the average daily rate since the outbreak began, you’d have had 39,000 coronavirus-related deaths in England since February.
The actual figure for English deaths of/with COVID as of 24 October is 31,552. Let’s call it 50,000 daily infections and an infection fatality rate between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent. We’ll be in the right ballpark.
Indeed, not only in the right ballpark but heading out of the woods with a song in our hearts according to a recent article by Paul Kirkham, professor of cell biology and Head of the Respiratory Disease Research Group at Wolverhampton University, Dr Mike Yeadon, former CSO and VP, Allergy and Respiratory Research Head with Pfizer Global R&D, and Barry Thomas, an epidemiologist.
They posit that the UK may already have reached the threshold of infections needed for herd immunity from SARS-CoV-2.
Working off a higher IFR than I’ve used, 0.26%, Kirkham, Yeadon and Thomas note that recorded SARS-CoV-2-related deaths for the UK as a whole – 42,000 – imply just under 17 million infections to date, or 25% of the population having already been infected.
They argue that 25% could well be enough to confer herd immunity when one takes into account many people’s already-existing resistance to COVID-19 arising from prior coronavirus infections (common colds and flu).
In short, the infections and deaths aren’t over yet. But, as a full-blown pandemic, COVID-19 shot its bolt in the UK back between April and June. Numerically and seasonally we are now pretty much in the territory of a bad flu year going forward
It’s time for SAGE to start listening to their own data.
“Help, help!” cried Piglet
All of which brings us back to Piglet the journalist and his excitable colleagues in the media. The laziness, slant and predictability of the i newspaper’s presentation of the 90,000-a-day story only deserves a passing nod, not an exhaustive analysis.
In fact, the longer the COVID-19 story goes on the more it resembles a moral panic rather than a truly unprecedented health crisis.
The outbreak isn’t unprecedented, after all. See Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu etc. etc. Neither is the media hysteria. We’ve been here before over and over again ever since the mass media achieved significant reach in the 19th century.
I’ll come back to that thought next time.