Sure it’s only one result and yet….

Many more people may have been infected with the coronavirus and acquired immunity than previously thought, according to a groundbreaking study in Germany.

Scientists studying the town at the epicentre of Germany’s first major outbreak said they had found antibodies to the virus in people who had shown no symptoms and were not previously thought to have been infected.

Initial results released on Thursday suggest as many as 15 per cent of the town may already have immunity — three times as many as previous estimates.

The findings suggest the mortality rate for the virus in Germany is just 0.37 per cent — five times lower than current estimates.

….if it holds up as being true that shutting down civilisation was the wrong response.

85 thoughts on “Sure it’s only one result and yet….”

  1. TBH Tim we’ve known or suspected this for weeks.

    The problem now is that the political class has now invested so much in impoverishing us all they are trying to find the least embarassing way to reverse ferret, but the media won’t let them.

  2. Wasn’t this what was suggested by that Oxford study that the groupthinking Lefties concerted to squash a couple of weeks ago?

  3. @Diogenes

    I’d not say that it was squashed. The problem is that it was a model. Just like the model that all the group thinking lefties were citing from IHME saying the UK would see 60K + deaths by august.

    The IHME model is crap. It reminds me of climate change models. Crap data, crap assumptions, poor understanding.

    This data is still too preliminary, but if born out, Mr Ecks will be a happy bunny (well in a told you so mode at least).

  4. “….if it holds up as being true that shutting down civilisation was the wrong response.”
    Not really. The first peak of patients with a real need for hospital treatment was real enough. This study has important implications for the second peak and/or the end of lockdown.

  5. but did we know that at the time? Was the judgement call wrong, back when it was made?

    i have to say, I’m rather worried by the statement of Neil Ferguson about thousands of lines of undocumented C code for modelling a pandemic, which wasn’t even released until now. That should be part of any scientific release and fully open sourced.

  6. which wasn’t even released until now.

    Has he now released it? Where do I find a copy, if so?

  7. It isn’t established yet –and I am hardly the only one on here who thought the lockdown was crazy bollocks –so I will reserve possible “I TOLD YOU SO”s for NiV etc over on Samizdata.

    However no doubt we –and Blojo Johnson are in BIG trouble.

    WTO now says minimum drop in 2020 economic activity 13% worldwide. Max 32%. That is based on now not extra weeks of politically-mandated suicide.

    BluLab Johnson will carry the UK can. His only defence is that all the other political pigs are also fools. Apart from Steve Baker’s blubbery little speech there was near zero opposition to tinpot tyranny. They ALL voted for it AFAIK and zAnU wanted to do far worse.

    However the fear-porn MSM will drop that down the memory hole and the new narrative will have the scummy left as seeing that the Tories were going to ruin us via hysterical over-reaction all along. Keir Stumor has already made some mildish speech about the LD hurting the economy. He hasn’t quite groped his way to the full bullshit yet but you can almost see the idea thrashing about in his empty head –awaiting a dim light bulb switch-on.

  8. Africa is patchy. Most countries under 100 cases with big exceptions for South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Cameroon, with 1-2000 cases and fairly low deaths

  9. thousands of lines of undocumented C code

    That’s programmer speak for “fuck off, I’m not showing it to you.”

  10. Insty linked to this report from a Chicago Hospital showing something similar – 30 to 50 percent of those rolling up for tests have antibodies. (Though it’s anecdotal rather than a proper study.)

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    More likely means thrown together by someone who isn’t a professional coder and they are embarrassed by the mess they’ve created.

    See also that climate ,eel for Anglia University that got leaked.

    It’s extremely worrying that government policy rests on a model in the first place let alone one that appears to have been thrown together. If the couldn’t be bothered to comment how much testing did they do? My guess is as much as was needed to get the answer they were looking for.

  12. Diogenes, thanks.

    What I had in mind was a) how are they defining it (WITH or OF), b) are current overall rates of death out of the ordinary and, c) since the Swedes at least have the option of a lockdown and a health service which might make it a worthwhile thing to do, have they caved in to the lockdown mob as reports earlier this week suggested they might?

    I’ve had a duckduckgo, but no dice…

  13. BiND,

    “It’s extremely worrying that government policy rests on a model in the first place let alone one that appears to have been thrown together. If the couldn’t be bothered to comment how much testing did they do? My guess is as much as was needed to get the answer they were looking for.”

    I’m not too worried about whether he’s tried to nobble it, but if a scientist is being paid to do research, the output of that, everything to reproduce the results, should be in the public domain, including all the code and the instructions to build and run the code. It’s part of the thing of science being reproducible.

    But it’s also basic good practice that someone can understand your work, which includes code being readable and that it has a specification. The people paying him should be insisting on this, or assigning people to work with him to fix that. And that’s not a money thing. Without that code, the results of the model are worthless.

  14. Bloke in North Dorset


    An Italian journalist I follow claimed it was OF, hence the reported lower death rate, but she didn’t provide a link.

    She also claimed in the same tweet that suicide rates are rising in Italy, again no link.

    She is usually sound when making these sorts of claims.

  15. BiND
    If you are plugging in a few variables, transmission rate, incubation period, morbidity etc., and getting out cases/deaths then what you have there is a formula, not a model, and it can’t possibly run to thousands of lines of C.

    If your software is producing a map of the country showing London is fucked but Penzance seems ok then fair enough that’s a model but the data doesn’t exist to produce such a thing.

    Should it ever be released I’d be fascinated to see it.

  16. I’m not too worried about whether he’s tried to nobble it, but if a scientist is being paid to do research, the output of that, everything to reproduce the results, should be in the public domain, including all the code and the instructions to build and run the code. It’s part of the thing of science being reproducible.

    Yes, I have thought this about climate ‘science’ for years, and Mann’s refusal to release his data and the assumptions he used. No papers or research should be allowed to influence public policy in ANY way until everything associated with it, data, assumptions, how conclusions were reached, is publicly available for potential refutation by others.

  17. Some COC data that makes you go hmmmmm…

    Death rates would have spiked months earlier than they have though if that really was this virus. Remember, there was zero monitoring or control for this until earliest the start of February.

  18. If Johnson truly were a Churchillian type, he would have told his cabinet, medico-loon advisers and the MSM to fvck off. Our strategy he would have declared would be to suck it up, dig lime pits for the dead and we’d already be approaching the end of this soon.

    The only lock down would have been him in No 10 with a crate of malt, not answering his phone or emails.

    He failed – and probably he failed us.

  19. This is interesting on Sweden in my view
    There’s another article on that site ( can’t find it now ) where Anders Tegnell says the infection rate in Stockholm has just reached 1 – and other cities are 4 weeks behind Stockholm.
    So the pressure will keep coming for at least a few more days to change course as the numbers level in the capital and increase elsewhere.
    Especially as all the South Europeans will start claiming – look, lock-downs work.

  20. As I understand it, Ferguson is not going to release the original code. He’s going to doctor it first – or, if you prefer, have a few people give it a bit of a polish before release.

    Years ago, I and a student of mine set about modelling some tricky phenomena. Happily we had access to a fully published and well respected data bank. Before plunging into the work we decided to look for flaws. How? A random sample wouldn’t be much cop. We had a couple of ideas both of which worked in identifying errors. The simplest was, if I may say so, brilliant. The student went through the code checking that the values for various physical constants were consistent up to the number of significant digits used. That revealed errors – or, if you like, inconsistencies. The most memorable was that stalwart of schoolboy chemistry, the Universal Gas Constant R. It turned out that the authors of the data bank hadn’t used a universal value. It varied according to which subroutines you happened to inspect.

    You might be interested to know that we wrote to the chap who published the data bank to draw his attention to the errors we’d found. And did he say thank you? No; he delivered the American equivalent of “How bloody dare you?”.

  21. The key issue here, as well as with the whole Climate thing, are the
    scientific models with which Government policy is then based upon.
    There has been a huge issue lately in scientific circles about reproducibility. Basically many historic experiments and studies, on which a lot of further scientific understanding has been based, has been found to be non reproducible. ie. they’re rubbish.

    Another element which is key to this is peer review, which is a cornerstone of the scientific process. Too much of this has become political or overly influenced by financial considerations.

    There is also another problem that those writing these models aren’t programmers and often don’t fully understand the code that they’re writing.

    This is where proper programming methodology is essential as well as proper documentation of the code.

    If these people are confident of their modelling, they should welcome people examining their work. If they aren’t, then we shouldn’t be basing government policy on them.
    We should be cutting their funding and laughing at them.

  22. @BIB; reproducibility can be a tricky one. I once had a post doc who wrote a program to untangle (“deconvolute” was the technical term) some data from a set of his experiments. It worked a treat and made the interpretation of the results crystal clear. Trebles all round! We published it.

    A couple of years later I had a research student try to apply the program to his results. He couldn’t make it work.

    Happily the post doc was still around (hurray for the Cambridge Phenomenon). He popped into the lab late one afternoon and sat down at a keyboard. Tap, tap, tap, and then pressed the titty. It worked! Lovely output, research student delighted. “What was the prob?” I enquired of the former post doc. “No idea.” And he wandered off into the evening.

    In the eventual PhD dissertation the student thanked the other chap for supplying and assisting with that software.

    What’s the explanation? If it had been a case of doing an experiment we’d have said that one fellow had “green fingers” and the other hadn’t. But for a program? Dunno. Anyway we didn’t use it again. Something so sensitive to the identity of the user had to be replaced.

    As for the general reproducibility crisis, God knows. I assume that incompetence and crookedness lie at the heart of it but some cases will remain puzzles.

  23. Seems to me there is much we still don’t know. I sincerely hope that this is right, but I personally am unsure as to whether to blame the government for its actions to date on the basis that… there is much we still don’t know. I don’t think we will know for quite some time what has happened, and there will always be counterfactuals. There are clearly some lefty tossers who want the government to control ever more of our lives. But there are also honest scientists saying, fuck me this is huge. They may be right or they may be wrong but to ignore them on the basis that – well, just fucking ignore them – is essentially impossible. The very people currently screaming about the lockdown would be wetting themselves about the lack of a lockdown. It’s just what they do.

    At some point, we will have a better though still imperfect idea of whether the lockdown was necessary to save a lot of lives, or it wasn’t. As a fully paid-up hater of politicians, I will not in all honesty be able to blame the government or the scientists unless evidence emerges of deliberate lies on the part of either or gross negligence on the part of the latter. You can’t blame the government for taking in good faith the advice of scientists when such advice is given in good faith. The good faith part is what will need examining.

    Minor anecdata: I know three people who have had it, two confirmed in hospital, one unconfirmed though symptoms are bang on and his GP diagnosed. All aged 70+, two of them heavy smokers in the past, one with Parkinson’s (so fairly immobile, so shit CV), one with COPD requiring regular steroid inhaler and antibiotics for lung infections: two went into hospital and came back out four days later feeling shit but no longer in any particular danger, the other sweated it out at home and recovered.

  24. Rob: the CDC data shows an early flu spike, andnow that anyone dying with Covid, not because of it is now swept into the numbers, I want to see how the numbers stack up against previous years eg heart failure, renal failure, bacterial infection, chronic airways disease..

  25. There is a point at which good faith becomes rank fucking stupidity.

    No one with the brains of a gnat can even attempt to say that they didn’t think shutting the bulk of the worlds economic activity–in a world situation already known to have dangerous levels of debt–was a good idea.

  26. Before rushing to the conclusion that the response is not appropriate for a low morbidity rate, it’s worth remembering that the second factor is rate of transmission. This seems to be particularly high for Covid-19.

    A fraction of a percent of people dying is still a lot of deaths. Combined with rapid transmission, that means a lot of deaths *all at once* which has huge consequences beyond those die. An overwhelmed health system will dramatically increase morbidity rates – not just amongst those with Covid-19, but those who would otherwise get a better standard of care.

    As it is, we’re seeing noticeable numbers of medics dying – that’s not a good case for just relaxing controls.

    Of course the other point is that 20-20 hindsight does not mean a decision was wrong. I can drive through traffic lights with my eyes shut and survive – that does not mean that driving through traffic lights with my eyes shut is a faster way to get home safely.

  27. FWIW I’m the local rep for our pensioners’ association (of a mid-sized life assurer). We have just under 600 members with an average age of 74 – spread all round the country, but with most in the SE and midlands. So far, we’ve seen just one death from ‘complications arising from Covid-19’ and he was 80 and (sadly) in poor health to begin with.

  28. Especially as all the South Europeans will start claiming – look, lock-downs work.

    Well they do. Putting the entire population under house arrest is actually a pretty good way of preventing the spread of an infectious disease. And if this was Airborne-Ebola-Mohammed-I’m-Hard-Bruce-Lee-Black-Death-The-Third then that’s what you’d want to do. You wouldn’t need to, of course, because with something like that you wouldn’t get people out of the house even for a 24 pack of Extra Soft.

    The important aspect, which was already known by evidence – not models – was the danger posed by the disease. It was already clear before the lockdowns that this was a disease that 90%+ impacted the elderly / infirm. Those poor sods were going to die and the only question was how quick. Was it worth kneecapping the economy and suspending our liberties to save the political embarrassment of a short term death overload?

  29. An overwhelmed health system will dramatically increase morbidity rates – not just amongst those with Covid-19, but those who would otherwise get a better standard of care.

    I keeps seeing this but the fact is most of the various health services have been shut down in favour of COVID-19 action. Hospitals in America are laying off staff. We’ve cancelled all sorts of tests and treatments for dangerous problems, and by extending the Wuhan curve in order to flatten it, we’ve cancelled them for a long time. Thousands of people are going to die unnecessarily or early because of this. They won’t get counted.

  30. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Hector Drummond blog and it seems the only way to avoid misinformation and dodgy stats is to look at the overall mortality rates and compare them to the historical record.
    From what he has tabulated so far, this is a nothing-burger. As has been said before, covid is pretty likely to send the elderly and infirm rather swiftly into the hereafter. As for the rest of us, only a small percentage are at any real risk.
    Has a total lockdown resulted in better outcomes? Hard to tell as yet, but the suspicion is that the original plan of herd immunity whilst protecting those most vulnerable would have been a better course of action.
    The real question is why have those people who are responsible for holding the government to account (her Maj’s loyal opposition and the media) done such a shit job?
    Surely BBC News with its vast budget should be digging into the stats to give the British public a balanced account (as if!).
    Or maybe Sky News should be door-stopping Ferguson to force him to publish the data and models that have been used to shut down the UK economy.
    I won’t be holding my breath.

  31. It all rests on the number of deaths which would eventuate if nothing was done. At a certain point, the economy would grind to a halt anyway – if people dropping dead in the street in your town, as they were in China and have been in Iran, and the bodies lying there for a day or two uncollected, then nothing would make much difference. Very few people are going to work. Most people are staying inside. Fancy a pint? Nah mate. Hospitals? Completely fucked. Food in the shops? Ha!

    If the R0 and CFR are as bad as the worst case projections have it, it seems to me you can either have everything closed down in a reasonably organised way or you can have everything closed down in a chaotic way. I prefer organised, for obvious reasons, though I understand that it’s the difference between being shot in the face or the gut.

    The absolute key question – and as above, I am happy to accept that no one *knows* the answer to this – is what are those contagion and fatality rates?

    If they turn out to be better than feared then, sure, in hindsight it was a mistake, but regrettably we don’t have hindsight, and at least we are coming out of an organised shutdown rather than out of a disorganised one; the same is true if they’re as bad as some fear.

    It seems to me to be an argument between those who think, inexplicably and unaccountably, because they’re not remotely qualified, and have more limited data to work with than is available to the qualified advisors/decision-makers, that they know exactly what the right course of action is (and that it is to let everything rip and reap whatever whirlwind is sown), and those who know that they don’t know.

    I’m in the latter camp. I know what I don’t know and am prepared to wait and watch. As I’ve said before there is no obvious other reason to me why our politicians and doctors would want to destroy the economy, they can only lose by it, and so Occam applies.

  32. We keep hearing that it’s important to ‘flatten the curve’ in order to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, but what are the results of medical treatment in ICU etc.
    I keep hearing that the majority of those on ventilators die anyway. Is it the case that those who pull through would do so anyway? Quite a few of the dead are those doctors and nurses treating the sick. Anybody have reliable stats on treatment outcomes yet?

  33. Interested, you are quite right that it seems inexplicable that the whole world would get shut down over nothing. But it’s not the first time that groupthink has resulted in irrational decisions being taken en masse. We also have the problem that these things are decided by politicians and civil serpents who are very risk averse so they tend to go for outcomes which minimise political risk to them.
    And we should be asking questions about this. The entire economy has been shut down over a Coronavirus outbreak that is neither unexpected or unprecedented.
    The decision making process aught to be questioned and we have a right to expect answers.
    And as to respecting experts! Plenty of historical cases where enthusiastic amateurs were better informed and correct compared to the pros.

  34. Bloke in Brum

    You don’t need to visit Drummond to see what he’s tabulated – the figures are on the ONS site. We’re shortly due another bulletin but the last one shows that ‘[t]he provisional number of deaths registered in England and Wales in Week 13 (week ending 27 March 2020) increased from 10,645 in Week 12 (week ending 20 March 2020) to 11,141. This is 1,011 more deaths than the five-year average of 10,130.’

    We’re an ageing population, and thanks to boatloads of illegals, a bigger one, so you’d expect some rise. Is 1,011 higher than expected, or lower, or about on trend? I don’t know. However I suspect that there are quite a few road deaths, pub fights and industrial accidents which would otherwise have happened that are not in these figures.

    Even if it’s 2,000 extra deaths it’s no enough to justify the lockdown (IMO). But we’re really only just getting going, and one assumes the lockdown will bear fruit.

    BYW I’d be interested what level of deaths more people on here would accept as justification for a lockdown?

  35. Bloke in Brum – absolutely we should question the experts (but we should have the humility to understand where we have gaps in our knowledge).

    But if you speak to eg actuaries – who have skin in the game – they seem in little doubt of the potential seriousness of this.

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is, but I know it’s not ‘Boris is a cunt’ or ‘Vallance is in the pocket of the Bilderbergs’ etc, and I’m generally in favour of the precautionary principle.

    There’s a world of difference for me out in the sticks and people in London. Being essentially retired (early!) with just a bit of hobby trading angle stuff to bother about I have barely noticed it’s happening – almost no deaths in my county yet, I’m fully stocked up, all I can’t do that I would in the average week is go to the pub/have friends round. I did have to cancel a skiing trip to Austria which was a bummer, but that is a very first world problem.

    But imagine being on the Central Line every day. You’re all going to get it eventually. And London is the cash engine that pays for everything.

  36. You don’t need to visit Drummond to see what he’s tabulated – the figures are on the ONS site.

    The figures are. Hector Drummond and some of his readers have been presenting them in clear comparison graphs that show what we’re seeing is as yet completely within normal ranges.

    I expect the next few weeks’ plots will start to show things happening out of the ordinary – but in time not in absolute numbers. We’ll be seeing unseasonal deaths.

  37. Everybody ought to read Simon Wrong-Lewis blog “mainly macro” just for the laughs. He makes Capt Potato seem sane.

    “As the chart below shows, the government over the last ten years has shrunk the share of health spending in GDP over an unprecedented ten year period, and a system that today cannot cope with normal loads is the result. As the chart also shows, the amount spent on health rose in real terms, illustrating that just increasing real spending is not enough to truly protect the NHS.”

    How much funding is enough for this moron? “

  38. Bloke in North Dorset

    What those graphs don’t tell is how many would have died had we not done social distancing and then lockdown. They probably won’t be able to until the final results are in in a couple of years and Sweden holds the fort of not locking down.

    It’s also not just about absolute numbers, it’s also about keeping them below peak capacity because breaking that creates so many other problems.

  39. BiB 3.10pm – Re experts

    +1, and it’s not as if the experts are saying the same thing, they aren’t, and Imperial have serious form for being bloody useless in this context. It’ll be a big error by the Government on that score.

    Interested – “what level of deaths more”

    Quite materially different to the annual trend “in total”, and was saying that to others in meat space well before we locked down.

    “Central Line” I find it truly astonishing that Western Civilisation has not yet evolved to the point where it can advise most people to work from home, to reduce the density on said line whilst continuing to run it at full capacity, and not be capable of producing a simple respiratory protection device that people can don when in close proximity (eg, on a tube train). Yes, I know it’s more complicated (maybe gloves as well?).

    If the old suffer most, and cause the real drain on the NHS, then scare them shitless from the start, even before we actually did (most of them don’t tend to go out discoing in any case). Mostly no compulsion is then needed. All the elderly I know needed absolutely no encouragement at all, they were savvy (self interested) enough to be well ahead of Boris on the timing of his advice to them.

    Fraser Nelson has a good article in the DT today. Reports that Boris is concerned that this may have gone too well, and was expecting far more rebellion (in trying to smooth the spike). Ie, underestimated the Brits ability mostly to look to self interest anyway and take a responsible approach, and possibly the earlier strategy was indeed the right one…. Make your own judgement.

  40. This thread has some interesting commentary on the “they’re all old and would have died anyway” claims.

    If nothing else, watching Boris – 55 years and generally a pretty fit individual – reduced to “taking short walks between rests” should highlight that this is *not* a disease that follows the typical pneumonia curve wrt age.

  41. I think that politicians will be largely exonerated for how they handled this pandemic. Put yourself in the PM’s shoes: your scientific advisors tell you to change course because Prof. Ferguson predicts up to 0.25m deaths if you don’t and they think he is probably right…It would be a brave and/or reckless PM who disregarded that advice….Nobody here can honestly claim that they would have made a different decision.

    Meanwhile, as I’ve said before here, the UK peak will probably be hit by mid-April. By late April/early May, lockdown will probably be eased. And with any luck, it’s largely over by mid June. (Tip: invest now…the FTSE 250 is rising.)

    I suspect the villain of this piece is probably Public Health England. Its objectives include:
    ▪Field epidemiology
    ▪Contagious disease surveillance and control
    ▪Major incident response.

    What has PHE with its 5000 staff been doing to prepare for a (widely predicted) pandemic since it was founded seven years ago? The answer seems to be very little. Rather PHE has concentrated on the more fashionable goals (among left-liberals) of dealing with “health inequalities” and nagging the nation about its diet and its alcohol consumption.

    Such executive agencies and quangos are insufficiently accountable, grossly ineffective and colossally expensive. They’ll use their PR budgets and lawyers to protect themselves during the inevitable public inquiry. Let’s hope they don’t get away with it.

    PS congratulations to Interested for his rational take!

  42. congratulations to Interested for his rational take!

    Interested’s take is equivalent to “the police wouldn’t have arrested him if he was innocent”. It just assumes the experts must be doing the right thing because they are the experts. An appeal (surrender) to authority.

    Similar “rationality” would have left us in the EU and subject to climate alarmists.

  43. Bloke in North Dorset

    Slightly OT

    Its now one week on from Mystic Spud’s prognostication of 10,000 death per day and, as to be expected, he couldn’t be more wrong. The BBC is reporting 980 deaths yesterday and Our World in Data 880, other sites may vary.

    Even if we accept that’s probably on the low side because its hospital deaths we’d have to go some to get well over 1,000. The total hasn’t even reached 10,000 deaths.

    NB We’re talking about official data here which is WITH Covid-19 not OF Covid-19 as that what he was using.

  44. Nobody here can honestly claim that they would have made a different decision.

    I’ve given this remark due consideration but the conclusion is always “fuck off”.


    It says 101 doctors and 30 nurses and auxiliaries have died in ITA.
    So Italy has say 2.5 times the death toll of the UK so far.
    So if things are in proportion then around 40 UK doctors should have died.
    But the UK is reporting just under 10 doctors have died so far.

    So why the big difference in the proportions – is the UK hiding some of its data, or are the doctors doing well here or badly there in protecting themselves. Could be lots of reasons.

  46. Bloke in North Dorset

    The link provided by Andy T is very interesting and it has a link to a blog post from an Actuary which is well worth a read (my emphasis).

    “There’s life in the old dog yet” – let no-one be abandoned to Covid-19.


    It seems clear from this high ratio that the majority of deaths can be regarded as due to COVID-19, not due to other conditions.

    For reference, of the actual deaths detailed in the report, only 12% were recorded as occurring in the presence of severe comorbidities (although this may underestimate the real number, to the extent that triage taking place before ICU is likely to exclude some patients thought unlikely to survive).

    While it is very likely that other conditions, or unhealthy lifestyles, weaken the immune system and increase the chance of death from COVID-19, that is quite different from attributing the deaths to those other conditions.


    Actuaries are able to provide well-based advice in the context of life expectancies, given our extensive experience in this area.

    While the impact of COVID-19 may seem to be disproportionately associated with chronic health problems, consideration of both the age ranges affected by the disease, and the fact that only a tiny fraction of impaired lives have life expectancies of the order of one year, makes it seem unfounded to claim that a large proportion of the COVID-19 deaths of 2020 would have died in any case this year.

    As well as this being false, this claim is dangerous from a public health perspective if it encourages a ‘so why should I care’ attitude, thus endangering adherence to Government policy on social distancing.

  47. The young lads are back in the park tonight. No sign yet of Plod.

    Either these young geezers will be scythes like they’d just Gone Over The Top, or they’ve spotted that nothing much is happening.

    How full is that Nightingale hospital?

  48. Theo

    “I think that politicians will be largely exonerated for how they handled this pandemic. Put yourself in the PM’s shoes: your scientific advisors tell you to change course because Prof. Ferguson predicts up to 0.25m deaths if you don’t and they think he is probably right…It would be a brave and/or reckless PM who disregarded that advice….Nobody here can honestly claim that they would have made a different decision.”

    Your last sentence is probably true, even though I’d like to think that had I been PM I would told PHE and Imperial to go and fuck themselves. However, I and others here do not aspire to be, or model ourselves on, Churchill as our PM does and I venture to suggest that would have been Ch’s reaction.

  49. How full is that Nightingale hospital?

    Barely used. Other London hospitals still have capacity.

    USS Comfort, the 1000 bed hospital ship sent to NYC over a week ago, has 53 patients. City hospital admissions dropping. An army temporary hospital akin to Nightingale constructed in Seattle received zero patients and is now being dismantled.

    The lads will survive.

  50. PJF

    ‘Similar “rationality” would have left us in the EU and subject to climate alarmists.’

    You are not comparing like with like. The lockdown decision was urgent: it had to be made ASAP or within 48 hours maximum. And the only available information was from the appointed experts. The decision about Brexit was not one where experts were relevant, and we had 40+ years to make the decision . Similarly, decisions about ‘climate change’ are not wholly the preserve of experts and are made incrementally,not urgently.

    ‘I’ve given this remark due consideration but the conclusion is always “fuck off”.’

    That’s not a rational response.

  51. Bravefart

    We can all play WWCHD? – What Would Churchill Have Done? – and it doesn’t tell us much about Johnson’s decision. Churchill, however, would have relied on Lindemann for scientific advice – that is, he would have deferred to his in-house scientific advisor, which is what Johnson did.

  52. “Actually, the markets have been bouncing back a little now for the last two or three weeks…”

    Indeed, PF. And I already have a decent profit on paper. The FTSE 250 is stirring, and that’s a good sign generally. It suggests a V-shaped recession rather than a U-shaped one – or an L-shaped Ecksian slump.

  53. @Theo

    PHE actively engaged in infecting the population so that they could follow their preferred option of herd immunity. They actually timed the lockdown well (at least on their terms) – no individual NHS trust has been overwhelmed. The incompetent Italians show what happens if a healthcare system is overwhelmed (Lombardy with 1/6 of the population has 55% of deaths in Italy) and an absurd fatality rate amongst people over the age of 50 which is more than double than what we would expect based on the Chinese data and what we see in other countries. PHE are morons – we should have stopped international travel earlier. And the Italians are to blame for the entire spread in Europe – they should be grateful they’re not being billed for the costs instead of whinging about a lack of support.


    The actuary is wrong. He’s assuming that the death rate of people who enter critical care should reflect that of the wider population with pre-existing conditions. In fact the admission to hospital for critical care means their likelihood of dying is higher than the wider population. To do his analysis, he’d need to have the proportion of people who were infected with Covid and were not admitted or who did not show symptoms. Alternatively he could try to work out what the death rate is for people with pre-existing symptoms who were admitted for other diseases. Neither method is perfect, but his analysis is wrong and an indictment of his understanding – good stats analysis is important but he hasn’t provided any.

    On the basis of this updated analysis on critical care, it appears the death rate for COVID is about 2,5 times that of a standard pneumonia given critical care. Table 5 ( 51.6% vs. 22%), but does not adjust for other risk factors. (To put that into the context of the idiot actuary’ s number, he’s saying it’s 8 times.)

    The best we can say is that it probably will raise the death rate, but not by 8 times for those with pre-existing conditions.

  54. As I sit here sipping my rum & coke on furlough, I have to say I’m quite happy to be cautious and isolate for a couple of weeks along with the rest of the country. Especially as the weather is decent!
    However, all actions have both costs and benefits. The evaluation of both requires accurate data which has been distinctly lacking. Given that PHE has a budget of 4 Billion I think that this is inexcusable.
    Given the enormous costs, both presently and in the near future to the economy, we have to ask whether this course of action is the correct one. It is not unreasonable to suppose that were we to pursue a course of action where we isolate those most at risk whilst letting the rest of us continue on as normal that we would have similar outcomes but without pole-axeing the economy in the process.

  55. On the subject of the financial markets, I’m suspicious that this is a bounce, not a recovery. Whilst everyone is patting themselves on the back at not dying, and enjoying the pleasant weather, it hasn’t sunk in yet that we’ve got at least another month of this before the great and the good are brave enough to let us out of our homes.

    When we do finally emerge, blinking in the sunlight, it’s going to be a bit of a shock to see the fallout of the measures we’ve taken. So between now and then, I’m expecting things to get worse again.

  56. BlokeInBrum:
    It is not unreasonable to suppose that were we to pursue a course of action where we isolate those most at risk whilst letting the rest of us continue on as normal that we would have similar outcomes but without pole-axeing the economy in the process.

    + one million

  57. That’s not a rational response.

    When someone says the only reason for disagreeing with them is dishonesty, “fuck off” is entirely rational and appropriate.

  58. Churchill and Alan Brooke went at it hammer and tongs*.

    Not sure re Churchill and Lindemann.

    * I don’t mean in the Rocco sense of the phrase.

  59. Andy T

    On the subject of the financial markets, I’m suspicious that this is a bounce, not a recovery. Whilst everyone is patting themselves on the back at not dying, and enjoying the pleasant weather, it hasn’t sunk in yet that we’ve got at least another month of this before the great and the good are brave enough to let us out of our homes.

    You may possibly be right about that bounce but most certainly not for the reason you speculate – the markets are way, way ahead of “what might happen in the next month”! They are discounting the nature of this year’s calamity (whatever the scale) and the knock on effect for the future, and more.

    You already know that the markets couldn’t give a fuck about all the dimwitted parochial sentiment relating to the outbreak, they are cleanly and brutally pricing in where individual companies are likely to be and in what state and what their earnings / cashflows will be in the future, post corona. Trust me, it’s sunk in that, anecdotally, you or I or Uncle Tom might die before the end of the month / year, but – quite frankly – they couldn’t give a flying shit! 🙂

  60. One issue I have over the lockdown was that the Chinese locked down a province but left a lot of other areas carry on. We don’t seem to be doing this but are instead locking down the entire country
    Why can’t we look at isolating hotspots not just everyone.
    To show how models are appearing to be useless the model announced for Saskatchewan has 3 time’s the deaths than neighbouring Alberta, but Alberta has 3 times the population of Saskatchewan. No where have I seen someone in the media question this, instead they have just selectively reported the higher numbers in the ranges given.

  61. PF – You miss my point.

    I’m not expecting the markets to be sentimental, but the actual effects are not going to be apparent until everyone starts going back to work. Companies that are struggling are likely to put off a full assessment until their staff are back in the offices and digging over their spreadsheets. At that point, we’re likely to see a rash of bad news.

    Sure, the markets will do their best to price it in, but bad news is bad news – and when we get a couple of quarters of it, it’ll depress even the most foresighted market.

    Nothing to do with people dying, everything to do with those financial/economic reports that are currently in limbo.

  62. I’m talking bigger picture. Markets price companies on the future, not on a current quarter’s bad news. A quarter (or more) of bad news is only relevant if it’s indicative of future change. That won’t be the case in this instance (or if it is, it’s already priced); we’re mostly in short sharp shock territory, and strictly self inflicted rather than underlying, and hence should easily jump back out of. Each company different of course.

  63. Even if it doesn’t hold up as being true, that shutting down civilisation was the wrong response


    1,000 extra ‘premature’ deaths pd for a few weeks in UK is less than cost of ~£4 Billion pd shutdown

  64. @Bnic

    Each province in China is roughly the size of a country. All chinese provinces increased their threat level to 1 by the end of January and effectively engaged in aggressive measures against travel especially from the infection centre of Hubei Province (where Wuhan is). They did a lot of testing and chasing up of those who had interacted with the infected. Those next to Hubei declared level 1 emergencies on the 23 Jan. At that point the Chinese had identified 1250 cases and had about 29 deaths.

    If the Italians had not been so incompetent and not allowed their disease to spread without proper checks, we would not be in this situation. But even with Italian incompetence, if their neighbours had started similar checks at the same level of deaths and infections against Italy (February 29th), it’s like that lockdowns could have been avoided in non neighbouring countries with strict checks. Instead because the EU is full of nonsense about freedom to travel – and the Italians were still boasting about their competence, we now are where we are. Thanks Italy. Thanks EU. Thanks PHE.

  65. PJF

    ‘When someone says the only reason for disagreeing with them is dishonesty, “fuck off” is entirely rational and appropriate.’

    No, it isn’t. The rational response would be to show us why you would have decided differently on 24/03 – given the information and scientific advice available then (not now but then).

  66. @ ken
    The Actuary is right unless, and ONLY unless, the patient was in an ICU before he contracted coronavirus.
    Think about it.

  67. The rational response would be to show us why…

    You (not “us” – you) had already decided I’d be being dishonest. You don’t get discussion, you don’t get a cookie, you get told to fuck off.

  68. @PJF

    Interested’s take is equivalent to “the police wouldn’t have arrested him if he was innocent”. It just assumes the experts must be doing the right thing because they are the experts. An appeal (surrender) to authority.

    Not really. I don’t know whether the experts were doing the right thing, I’m simply saying I think you need more than half-baked conspiracy theories and the like to say they’re not, and that in the absence of better knowledge I am prepared for a short time to go along with them. This is so obviously different from the EU and AGW that it shouldn’t need saying.

    If the cops arrest an innocent man he gets a trial, if it goes that far. This is bad, but he has a fair chance of being released and maybe even compensated. If the government get *this* wrong and the scientists are right then very many people will die, with no release nor compensation. I understand the argument that people will die if they err on the side of caution but I think I explained fairly why IMO they effectively had to act as they did. As more and more information and data emerges their strategy may change, but I think it’s impossible to say honestly and with any certainty that they acted wrongly three weeks ago. How do you know?

    (Obviously I’m against the cops arresting innocent men, and the EU, and against the AGW blob.)

  69. @john77

    No the actuary is wrong. Your assumption is that the people who ended up in critical care would otherwise not have been in critical care without the coronavirus, but in fact given that these are people who are generally vulnerable to respiratory tract infections, we would always expect some of them to be in hospital as a result of infections and some of them to end up in critical care. It’s why we need to know the number of excess deaths in the population as a whole to determine the true effect of coronavirus. The methodology the actuary is using would mean that non Covid pneumonia causes about 3 times as many deaths as might be expected (his number says 8 to 1 for Covid and Covid is 2.5 times as serious as normal pneumonia), but in fact the non Covid pneumonia deaths are part of his expected death rate, which illustrates rather well why his analysis is bollox.

    it’s true that some of those who end up in critical care might not have been in hospital, which is why I said comparing it to the wider population infected would be better (since then his expected death from all causes would hold and we’d be comparing apples to apples), but I’m right and the actuary is wrong.

  70. ken, you are not thinking before trying to reply. The NHS has halted non-urgent operations to release ICU beds for coronavirus patients has “built” (converted buildings into) new hospitals. Matt Hancock says the NHS is keeping capacity ahead of demand – i.e.current capacity > current demand but initial capacity was well below current demand. The vast majority of those in hospital would not have been there in the absence of the pandemic (Stuart MacDonald cites a table showing 92.8% of them were in reasonable health for their age. 1.1% had pre-existing significant respiratory condition but 62.9% had to be mechanically ventilated within 24 hours. That 1.1% is mildly surprising as it is below the national average for over-70s *until* you realise that this is deaths in hospitals, excluding those in Care Homes which cater for a large proportion of those who would have died anyhow without coronavirus.
    As Matthew Edwards points out it isn’t a question of “most of them would have died”.
    Most of those who would have died anyhow are not included in this analysis.

    As to your second point about comparing normal seasonal death rates – “up to a point, Lord Copper” the “normal” death rate in the first quarter of each calendar year is highly weather-dependant with a majority of recent years showing a year-on-year change of more than 2% [three of the last ten years (I could say three of the last six but that would be deliberately misleading) showed a change of >4% year-on-year (two improved one worsened) for the period to mid-April]. Do you take 2019 as a comparator, risking that it’s an outlier, or an average for several past years, risking that you are getting it wrong because there’s a secular trend that you are carefully excluding? My preference would be to use the popular negative-exponentially-weighted average of past years as a compromise but I’m not an expert on epidemiology.
    It is a simple fact that Pneumonia kills a lot of people: millions. Wikipedia describes it as “a leading cause of death”.
    If you read through the article you will see that Mr Edwards has put in a 50% safety margin in his estimate for non-Covid-19 deaths so his 8:1 ratio errs, if at all, on the conservative side.

  71. john77

    I did think things through and clearly my comprehension level is far higher than yours, probably because I bothered to read the underlying critical care report. The link I shared with the data from ICNARC does a comparison with pneumonia patients over the period 2017-2019. your simplistic trust of the actuaries is shown to be flawed by the fact that the non-covid pneumonia cases include 74% were able to “live daily life without assistance”, (for Covid this is 93%). 43% of those with non covid pneumonia end up on a ventilator within 24 hours (59% in the case of covid). Not so different. The other problem is that the percentages of those described here as having pre-existing conditions is not quite the same as we see elsewhere. The critical care percentages (that the actuary is citing) and that are in this report are actually severe co-morbidities – so renal means end stage renal failure, respiratory means shortness of breath even with light activity or home ventilation, cardiovascular means signs of heart failure even when at rest. Which is why patients in critical care will include lots of people with pre-existing conditions, just not ones that put them at death’s door, but who are more likely to end up in critical care when a bad case of the flu comes round – but who fall into the 93% of those who are able to live life without assistance. Just as more than 70% of non covid pneumonia patients fall into this category.

    Comparing the outcomes of those who end up in critical care with the wider population mortality rates ignores the update value associated with being admitted in the first place. It is true that some of those who end up in critical care would not have done so, but to believe it’s 100% is moronic. The actuary is wrong.

    As I said, the correct way to assess the increase in mortality would be to take the total infected and then do an age and pre-existing condition match and then compare. Not to start with a group that are clearly already far more ill and then compare to the wider population.

  72. @ ken
    “I did think things through and clearly my comprehension level is far *lower* than yours, *despite* I bothered to read the underlying critical care report.” FTFY

    I had skipped that because Mr Edwards was using some more up-to-date data so I thought I didn’t need to read it. Yes, the INARC report does provide some useful data *demonstrating that Covid-19 is far more lethal than non-Covid pneumonia*.

    You don’t think that a comparison between 7% and 26% is significant? That a difference between mortality rates >50% and <25% is significant? That the co-morbidity of 24% for pneumonia compared to 6% for Covid-19 wouldn't bias the death rate? That 43% and 59% are different – 59% is more than one-third greater?

    What Mr Edwards did was to take a "worst case scenario" and tell everyone that he was doing so. He compared Covid-19 deaths with the expected death rate of the extreme case of an overweight diabetic 85-year-old man. He did NOT compare with the average of the population. Your assumption that he was doctoring the data in favour of his own argument is almost Murphy-esque.

    The old-fashioned Actuary shows the interpretation of the data least favourable to his/her own case (one standard joke is an extrovert Actuary is one who looks at your shoes instead of his own). However I don't have blind faith in Actuaries and am quite willing to argue with them if I think that they are wrong

  73. John77

    The INARC report is from April 9th – so how can the actuary have more up to date data? Seriously? You claim my comprehension is “low”? And yes, I know the data shows Covid is more serious than flu induced pneumonia, but it doesn’t back the actuary’s analysis at all. That you don’t understand this is an indictment of your ability.

    What he did was to take the likely death rate of an overweight 85 year old diabetic IN THE WIDER POPULATION. If he had taken the likely death rate of an overweight 85 year old in intensive care that would go too far the other way. Once you end up in critical care with an URTI, the odds of death are very high, thus confining one’s analysis to this sub-group and then applying the odds of dying outside this is dumb. As I said, on his analysis, he would predict one-third the number of deaths in non-COVID pneumonia. He’s not conservative, just wrong.

    We’ll know soon enough when the data on excess deaths comes out – I’m confident that the actuary is utterly wrong (indeed if he was right, we’d already have seen it in the data from the week ending 31st March – because his 8x death rate should have resulted in a massive spike, which isnt visible.) I’m sure that COVID is bad and will result in a higher mortality rate, but not at the level the stupid actuary is suggesting.

  74. @ ken
    There are some 20,000 Covid patients in hospital at present. At the beginning of 2020 there were just over 4,000 ICU beds in the NHS, of which the majority were normally used for patients in for operations. So Covid-19 patients are over 10 times the number of “normal” ICU users.
    A majority of those who have left hospital to date have done after having died. So more than five times those non-covid patients who were admitted because they were critically ill with pneumonia.
    The 85-year-old obese male diabetic smoker is selected as an extreme case, close to being equivalent to someone who would be automatically put into an ICU with access to oxygen when admitted to hospital because it is not practicable (nor considered ethical) to obtain full health records for everyone who has died of or with covid-19.
    Mr Edwards is correct in saying that “The contention that the majority of this year’s Covid-19 victims would have died this year absent the coronavirus is incorrect.
    Furthermore it is a dangerous message as it could easily lead to a “it doesn’t matter” attitude to the health crisis, and in particular, could weaken the case for social distancing”
    The problem is your inability to understand that the 85-year-old obese male diabetic smoker is a more-than-adequate substitute (in terms of expected mortality over the medium term) for a patient placed in an ICU: most of those admitted to an ICU are in better general health than he is.
    A second problem is that you have misread the blog: Mr Edwards says that the death rate for those hospitalised due to Covid-19 is 8 times that it would have been for that group absent Covid-19, not 8 times the level for those hospitalised with pneumonia. The latter are irrelevant to his point that mortality has been *significantly* increased. If you want to take a weighted mortality rate 10% of those in ICU and 90% general population and taking out Mr Edwards’ explicitly stated safety margins you would get a ratio greater than 8:1.
    FYI “stupid actuary” is an oxymoron.

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