Tag Archives: coronavirus

High UK death rates

Coronavirus has (as at 12.04.20) infected some 1,784,300 people round the world, and killed some 108,900 of them; a mortality rate of about 6%. What requires some explanation is why mortality rates have been so much higher in the UK than in other countries.

In Portugal, Canada, Austria, Germany, and South Korea, for example, rates are significantly lower. A German contracting coronavirus has a 1 in 45 chance of dying, whereas in the UK it is more than 1 in 8 – more than 5 times the rate in Germany (see footnote for numbers)

These are pretty terrifying odds, and even more so when the distribution of mortality with age is factored in. The above are averages for all ages; so for those of Grumpy’s age, the statistics are far worse, and pushed it to the level more often associated with more ostensibly malign infections.

This disparity may be due to differences in levels of preparedness, better funded and equipped health facilities in the countries with lower rates, age distribution of the population, or the timing and nature of the political decisions taken as the scale of the pandemic unfolded.

Postmortems don’t help the corpse, and “if only we had …” conclusions are pointless. What is essential is that the reason for the disparities are determined, and (to use the hackneyed expression so beloved of politicians before they do precisely nothing) “lessons learned”. This time, however, the economic rubble left in the broken businesses of voters might just be the catalyst for a more meaningful review of ‘rare event’ planning.

CountryCasesDeaths% deaths
Italy152,27119,46812.79
UK78,9919,87512.50
Belgium28,0183,34611.94
Netherlands24,4132,64310.83
Spain161,85216,48010.18
Sweden10,1518878.74
Switzerland25,1071,0364.13
USA525,55920,3043.86
Ireland8,9283203.58
Portugal15,9874702.94
Canada23,1956482.79
Austria13,7993372.44
Germany123,8782,7362.21
S Korea10,4802112.01
Israel10,7431010.94
World17843311089626.10

Pure Guardian

The Guardian today (03/04/2020) had a ‘long read’ by an author, Bee Wilson. Without wishing to focus on her in particular, it did typify this series in the paper by exhibiting Guardian characteristics of (a) seeking a target to demonise (b) being long on anecdotes of extreme and unrepresentative examples, pop-psychology and short on rational analysis and logic, and (c) accompanied by sounds of axes being ground / bees buzzing in bonnets in the background. See https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/apr/03/off-our-trolleys-what-stockpiling-in-the-coronavirus-crisis-reveals-about-us

The issue here was about the tendency of part of the population to ‘stockpile’ at times of crisis (such as the present one), and how it was practised by (without explicitly saying so) uneducated, irrational,’chav’ types that presumably don’t live in the area where Bee resides.

What this and other articles have not addressed is how ‘stockpiling’ is not only rational, it is the inevitable outcome of the Government’s own policies. Grumpy is old, and at the behest of the Government is ensconced in his bunker, and being in a high risk group, relies on deliveries to the door for food. Previously, Grumpy did his weekly shop, and purchased a weeks’ worth of food. However, as demand soared for home deliveries as a result of Government policy, so did the lead times for getting deliver slots – it any were available at all.

Her flawed article extols the virtues of local shops (presumably selling the sort of edibles that foodies such as her eat) saying that plenty of food was available, but they, in the main, don’t deliver. What part of the word ‘isolation’ does Ms Wilson not understand ?? Let me help her – the OED defines it as “Cause (a person or place) to be or remain alone or apart from others.” .. you can’t go out shopping, dummy.

Assume that it takes 3 weeks to get a slot on average. Buyers were faced with a choice; either (i) buy a weeks worth of food to be delivered as before and starve for the next two week waiting for the next slot or (ii) buy three weeks of food to line up with the extended lead times. The combination of self-isolation and extended delivery lead times inevitably logically results in an initial tripling or more of consumption on a transient basis. This is 101 procurement / queuing theory. (One assumes that Bee Wilson sends her secretary down to Tesco to risk COVID to get her supplies, so is spared this reality.) Nowhere in her tedious article was this scenario discussed, notwithstanding the psychology-lite explanations from the usual ‘hire a pundit’ experts. There is a comment from one contributor about risk resilience, but that was related to additional consumption of 30% because people were no longer eating in their Notting Hill restaurants, but there was no mention of the underlying delivery issue.

In fact, as Grumpy writes, there are NO slots available at Asda, Morrisons (a 45,000 user queue), Ocado, Tesco, or Waitrose; so how is he to get food without going out, which is not what self-ISOLATION is about? So if a slot appears, and it is clear that he might get another in delivery in May, how many tins of soup is he to buy? The rational answer is the logical one – as many as he possibly can. It’s not stockpiling, and he is not panicking. He does want to eat, and not starve. Grumpy can do the math and understand probability and expected outcomes far better than Ms Wilson seemingly can. So if she wants a target, attention should be given to the organisers of delivery logistics when responsible citizens follow the Government edict to stay at home. The people responsible, Priti Patel and Matt Hancock (the former being completely invisible of late), should sort out the mechanisms (using the army if the Supermarkets wont do it) to get food delivered to those they have imprisoned.

Italian politicians condemned to die

Reserved for the President of Italy

The Daily Express reports (23/03/20) that doctors in Italy have been directed not to provide ventilation facilities to anyone over 60, thus probably condemning them to death, given respiration was needed.

Grumpy notes that this means that, should he contract coronavirus and require such treatment, the President, Sergio Mattarella (born 1941) would be left to expire, gasping for breath.

Similarly, the same fate would be visited upon Elisabetta Casellati (born 1946) and President of the Senate.

Really ? Even assuming that they were not (as would be expected ) to be treated in some elite private hospital, it’s hard to believe that the decimation of of the most senior politicians, judges, clerics, celebrities and business titans would be allowed, which would otherwise be the result of this edict.

Grumpy had a surge of indignation that such a coarse judgement involving life of death would be issued. Ther are probably many 60 year old who are far more healthy and likely to pull through than some drug or alcohol addled 20 year old. Their health professionals have almost certainly had to make life or death decisions based on the reality of resources, COVID or no. So has the NHS. It just happens that such judgements will be more likely as a result of the pandemic.

But a more underlying reason for Grumpy’s indignation wave is that they patently don’t mean it to be universal. The edict really means that it will be applied to the poor, the uneducated, the inarticulate, the unconnected and all those to whom society owes an equal duty. Grumpy is starting to feel empathy with the OpEd writers in The Guardian …