Thursday, 30 April 2020

QUESTIONS ON COVID-19 DATA


TIME TO THINK
Ye know that old expression, ‘When everyone agrees, no-one’s thinking’? Well, I’ve been doing some thinking on this COVID-19 lockdown situation, and I have some questions to ask of those who are qualified to address them – I’m  not.
The three tables below are taken from the worldometers.info website and were sorted in the first instance by Total Cases/1M population – the middle table – with all smaller countries (pop. less than four million) eliminated. These then are the top 17 bigger countries affected by the virus.
The number 17 is arbitrary, but the bottom country in that table is not. I deliberately went down as far as Norway because it’s in Europe, it has a similar population to us, and while it’s not an island it might as well be, huge shoreline and a long rural border – with Sweden, which is also another factor in choosing Norway.
The usual proviso on these stats applies – there is no global consistency in either measurement or reportage. Still, for the purposes of this examination they’re all we’ve got and even if they don’t give us an absolute picture, they do give us an indication, certainly a better indication of where we’re at than any of the modelling that was being done.
So where are we?
The website gives a far wider picture than just the four columns I’ve chosen, but I believe they are the ones most relevant – Tests, Total Cases, Deaths, all sorted per one million of population.


From www.worldometers.info

NOT DOING VERY WELL…
What do those three columns tell us?
Well first of all, and looking just at Ireland, we’re well up the chart on testing, in 6th place, even higher up in terms of Total Cases, in 3rd position, and also faring very badly in terms of Deaths/1M, in 8th place.
Defenders of this government’s performance can argue about the last statistic, but they can’t deny that we’re being hard hit in terms of Total Cases, and surely can’t argue that as an island nation (and yes, that applies even with the border), our infection numbers should be much, much lower than that, and that in terms of protecting the most vulnerable amongst us, our elders in nursing homes and care homes, we should have done much, much better.
But leave those arguments aside for the moment – they will surely see daylight at some stage, on a different stage.

NORWAY, SWEDEN AND IRELAND
To go back to the earlier paragraphs, take a close look at Ireland, Sweden and Norway, all  highlighted in the tables.
Ireland and Norway took similar measures to deal with the crisis – lockdown, isolation. Sweden took a very different approach – isolation only of the most vulnerable but otherwise, carry on as normal, or as only slightly different to normal.
Compare Sweden to Norway, the death-rates/1m population especially – 244 in Sweden to 38 in Norway, just over 6 to 1 – and there you have a clear argument for lockdown.
Then compare the numbers for Sweden and Ireland.
We’ve been in lockdown for over a month, yet we have twice the infection rate of Sweden (4,302 Total Cases/1M against 2,010), and almost the exact same rate of Deaths/1M (244 for Sweden, 241 for us).

TIME TO QUESTION
So, my questions, for those who understand these things:

  • Why aren’t we doing a hell of a lot better than Sweden, with all these sacrifices we’re making?
  • The models that were being used to project infection rates and death rates were based on Sweden-like measures to address the looming crisis and were almost literally off-the-charts in terms of deaths – why isn’t Sweden top of that particular table? Why are six European countries ahead of it, and most of those far, far worse in terms of Deaths/1M?
  • We now have data on this virus, imperfect as it is, which we didn’t have when all those initial models were being put together – is that data being incorporated into the new models in the analysis of what needs to happen next?
  • Data is also emerging on measures to counter the rapid spread of the virus, measures such as the use of various masks – has that data been collected and corelated, with a view to finding ways of easing the restrictions?
Ireland wasn’t ready for this virus, the world wasn’t ready for this virus, and that is failure.
But are we ready to work our way out of it, at the earliest opportunity? I wonder, I really do.