by Frank Schnittger
Fri Apr 3rd, 2020 at 04:15:52 PM EST
Today the UK has joined Italy, Spain, the USA and France in surpassing the total of Chinese deaths despite having had a couple more months to prepare and learn from the Chinese experience of dealing with what had been a new and unprecedented corona virus disease. European governments were slow to identify and react to the gravity of the threat while Trump dismissed the pandemic as nothing more than a Democratic party hoax and the deputy Chief Medical Officer for England dismissed WHO advice on dealing with the pandemic as being appropriate only for low and medium income countries.
It is entirely inappropriate to engage in any kind of Schadenfreude while innocent people are dying in the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is difficult to avoid pointing out that political choices can have very severe consequences. This is not a time for political or nationalist point scoring but lessons have to be learned from the mistakes of the past particularly when some of these mistakes are still being implemented today. In particular, the mistakes still being made in Britain and N. Ireland have serious implications for Ireland as I pointed out in the letter to the Editor below.
Although written in response to an Irish Times article, I doubted whether the Irish Times would published it. They prefer trivial stuff. It wasn't, so I sent a slightly amended version to the Irish Independent who published it as their featured letter. It's behind a paywall, but here is the Press Reader version:
The Irish Independent also published a previous letter of mine on Trumps performance in the crisis:
The Irony is that both Trump and Johnson are enjoying record approval ratings right now, if the polls are to be believed. It will be interesting to see how their popularity will fare as the magnitude of their mistakes becomes clear. US and British exceptionalism may play well with their respective electorates, but has proved of little use against Covid-19.
Ranked by deaths per 1 million inhabitants, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland have also been moving up the grisly league table. Sweden's relatively relaxed approach to dealing with the crisis doesn't seem to be working too well either. There is some hope that the new deaths curve in Europe may be flattening slightly, with deaths in Italy and Spain off their all time highs in recent days.
Of course there are many factors which can influence these numbers. Many countries are not counting many deaths probably caused by Covid-19 if thy haven't actually tested the patient or performed a post mortem to confirm this. Others are only testing on hospital admissions and omitting deaths in nursing homes or the wider community.
In Italy the death toll is significantly greater because the outbreak is concentrated in particular areas and the health service has been completely overwhelmed leading to many otherwise avoidable deaths amongst Covid and non Covid patients alike.
Countries with an older age profile are always likely to suffer more deaths. Germany's death toll was significantly lower because the initial infections were mostly in fit younger people returning from ski resorts in Austria and Italy. Their death rate has been trending higher as the pandemic spread to older age groups.
In Ireland the median age for fatalities has been 81 and (for reasons as yet unknown) the male/female ratio has been more than 2:1. The trend is still rising, but with some "flattening" appearing possible at this stage: The precise level of new cases diagnosed per day may be influenced by bottlenecks in testing and analysis caused by shortages of testing kits and reagent:
New positive test results per day
The number of deaths per day has also fluctuated widely, but may also be showing signs of "flattening", although epidemiologists are still expecting a "surge" in cases this month which may overwhelm limited intensive care facilities leading to a further spike in deaths.
New deaths per day.
At least there is now some hope that radical non-pharmaceutical interventions such as physical distancing, school and non-essential business closures are beginning to have some effect, particularly in countries which implemented these measures earlier.