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Learning about epidemics

Today is Wednesday which means it is my short blog post day. I have been travelling a lot today. By the way, there are still some things which cannot be attended to via the Internet, Zoom or otherwise. As I continue to calculate various things along the way to my 10-point or something plan which I hope to have final by next Monday. But with limited time today as I dodge and weave to avoid the virus, I have been reading a lot of the research literature about modelling epidemics. It is quite interesting and nurtures my penchant for modelling, estimation, numerical forecasting etc. But it has helped me understand the reason governments are now inflicting massive economic damage on our nations in the name of ‘flattening the curve’. I cannot say I know much about all this. But I know more than I did a week ago. Knowledge is good. And, generally, you get that from the scientific research literature rather than blogs and Twitter. I exclude economics (unless it is about MMT) from that recommendation. Back with my unemployment modelling tomorrow.

Some armchair – very – modelling

The ABS is now on the job – counting the dead!

Today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released their – Guidance for Certifying Deaths due to COVID-19.

Pretty grim really.

I have received a lot of E-mails lately (and a few SMS messages) suggesting that I might be falling prey to the media beatup about the coronavirus.

The opinions expressed range from those who consider everything to be a conspiracy by dark forces to those consistent with Donald Trump’s latest ploy on the chaos – “let’s not make the cure worse than the disease”.

I take the latter to be symptomatic of the fear that is now obviously growing among the mainstream corporate world that the neoliberal game is well and truly up.

Not only are governments abandoning their fiscal surplus obsessions and demonstrating to all and sundry that they can spend as much as they like – and are doing so without talk of increasing taxes or becoming insolvent from being overburdened with debt, but the largesse is also being spread more liberally to the hoy polloi rather than to bail out the top-end-of-town when they overstep the greed mark and/or want their business models that are dependent on public procurement contracts nourished.

It is interesting that in times of change, common folk like us become expert in different, new lexicons.

In the 1980s, as neoliberalism was emerging as the dominant economics narrative and our progressive political parties were selling out, all the talk was about ‘microeconomic reform’ – a.k.a how to scorch the earth with privatisation, outsourcing, cutting worker entitlements and pension, introducing user-pays on essential services (water, power, etc) and introducing pernicious work tests for the people made unemployed by all of the above.

In 1989, the Australian Labor Treasurer (who became Prime Minister) Paul Keating who was pushing this agenda very hard during the Hawke government years made the famous statement:

I’ll guarantee if you walk into any pet shop in Australia, the resident galah will be talking about microeconomic policy.

Everyone thought this was hysterical but many of those who laughed lost jobs, livelihoods, pension entitlements and were prematurely forced onto passive welfare.

This was just before the massive recession which the same Treasurer described as the “recession we had to have”.

In the period before the GFC, everyone became experts (not!) about how ‘budget surpluses contributed to national saving”. All these media types came out with statements about “ammunition in the locker”, and similar supercilious, deeply ignorant references and failed to understand that fiscal surpluses destroy non-government wealth and income flows.

The anathema of good sense – in most cases!

So we become nomenclature mavens.

I am now fully conversant – (-: – with the latest terminology like the “basic reproductive number, R0”, which epidemiologists have introduced to all of us so we can be armchair experts too.

And when I see a ‘number’ or a ‘rate’ I know it can be ‘numerically modelled’ and I become interested.

To get some purchase on the term, the Australian Health Department’s information article – 2.2 The reproduction number – says that:

The reproduction number (R) is often used to reflect how infectious a disease is. We will, in part, use this quantity to assess alternative interventions to control an outbreak, because R is changed by control measures. The basic reproduction number (R0) is the reproduction number when there is no immunity from past exposures or vaccination, nor any deliberate intervention in disease transmission. We refer to R as an effective reproduction number when there is some immunity or some intervention measures are in place.

It is useful to recall some of the characteristic of a reproduction number, because its interpretation is not always straightforward.

“Not always straightforward” – the eternal warning to commentators which is usually ignored as they lurch into the modelling part with less than due care.

“Flattening the curve” is another term that is now regularly spoken about across the dinner table. Everyone knows what it means and implies, well sort of.

So, we also have to be mindful of – 2.4 The infectiousness function – which modifies the way we use R0 estimates.

I venture to add that we will need to throw in the “the case-fatality ratio” for some sense of completeness.

And so it goes.

And in the classic tradition of ignoring all useful warnings, we can do some ‘modelling’ ourselves.

There are many studies of these ratios etc available.

1. One such study (which is fairly representative) found the R0 for seasonal influenza to be between 0.9 and 2.1, converging on around 1.3 or 1.4 (Source).

This is the figure the World Health Organisation (WHO) regularly suggests.

So, on some sort of average, if I have the misfortune of acquiring the flu in any season I will pass it on to 1.4 other persons.

2. In the case of COVID-19, the studies are still coming in and have been mostly concentrated on the Wuhan situation (For example).

While it is early days, we are getting some consensus around 2.5. I have seen estimates of the R0 up to 3.9.

So, it seems the coronavirus is more infectious than the seasonal influenza.

Further, the hospitalisation rate for severe cases of influenza has been estimated by the US – Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – to be around 1 to 2 per cent of all cases.

There are some estimates that the hospitalisation rate for COVID-19 is 10 times higher than that.

But even if it was just the same rate as the seasonal influenza here is the issue.

1. Imagine I get influenza, then on average 1.4 persons get it from me.

2. Iterate that infection cycle 10 times and there would be 28.9 persons suffering from the virus (compute Reproduction = R0^iterations. You can also work out how many would be hospitalised.

3. Now imagine I acquire the coronavirus, and immediately infect 2.5 persons while I am contagious.

4. Iterate that infection cycle 10 times and there would be 9,536.7 persons infected. The following table shows the sensitivity of the estimates around different R0 values.

R0 Reproduction
1.4 28.9
1.6 109.9
1.8 357.0
2.0 1,024.0
2.5 9,536.7
3.0 59,049.0

Calculate 1 or 2 per cent hospitalisation rates if you care.

Our health systems simply cannot cope with that sort of incidence in a short time period (10 iterations could be a very short period in time).

So while all these E-mails that I am receiving tell me stuff like – “people die from the seasonal flu”, “COVID-19 is mostly a mild illness” and all the other conclusions, which are probably true, the evidence is pointing to a much larger number of people requiring hospitalisation – a hugely, much larger number.

And it doesn’t help much then to launch into a narrative that neoliberalism has run down our health systems etc. It has and that is a massive issue. But it still doesn’t alter much in the immediate period.

So what the ‘cure worse than the disease’ logic really comes down to is some natural selection argument.

It suggests that we want profits to continue and if a large number of people, particularly our parents etc are going to die more quickly and in terrible circumstances, then so be it.

The WHO report (February 16-24, 2020) – Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – describes a shocking death – multi-organ failure, respiratory failure and septic shock and drowning in excess fluid in the lungs.

I don’t support the ‘cure is worse than the disease’, when the cure is really about maintaining the current neoliberal distribution mechanisms, increasing inequality, elevated levels of labour underutilisation, increased precarious of work, rundown public infrastructure and service delivery, flat pay growth, and all the rest of the elements that have defined, in increasing intensity the last 3 or so decades.

We need a cure for both COVID-19 and neoliberalism.

But first we need to protect workers’ wages and incomes, find productive activities for displaced workers to be transitioned into while the health crisis continues, protect our older population from exposure (which will generate thousands of interim and ‘safe’ jobs in the process), and use the period to begin the process of fighting the other emergency – the socio-ecological crisis.

And finally, I am working on estimates of the way costs are being transferred from corporations and other employers to workers (charges for data, telephone usage, depreciation of furniture, electricity, heating, etc) as we are all encouraged to ‘work from home’. That needs to be taken into account when we are arguing for government support.

Call for MMTed Support

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I will soon launch a series of on-line, live Masterclasses which will also support the on-line curricula that is being developed.

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Music to stay calm with

I love this song – Apostle – which is taken off the second solo album by In the Skies – after he quit Fleetwood Mac.

It was released in May 1979 and has some really beautiful guitar playing on it.

He was supported by another great guitar player Snowy White who plays rhythm guitar on this particular track (Track 9 on the album).

Apostle was written by Peter Green as were all the tracks on the album (with some collaborations on some of them).

He recorded this album after several years out of action due to his mental health issues.

Martin Celmins biography of Peter Green (Castle books, 1995) is a must read for Peter Green fans – it is a very sympathetic and detailed account of a troubled genius.

My favourite guitar player (with Jimi Hendrix).

So in these times of stress, close you eyes and listen to this beautiful composition in harmony.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 33 Comments
    1. Dear Bill,
      Don’t let reality interfere with a nice simulation. Looking at the CDC data of 2017-18 flu the hospitality rate was 1.8% or 810’000 of 45’000’000 (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/past-seasons.html). And yes, people die of the common flu exactly in the same way you describe dying of COVID-19 above. We are now approaching the end of the fourth month of the outbreak of the present health crisis. At this time of writing there are 425.000 confirmed cases and a little less than 19’000 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, annual influenza epidemics result in about 3-5 million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths (quoted from: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/219557-overview#a6). In the past, did you ever experience a worldwide lockdown and media-fanned mass hysteria on such a big scale because of the flu season? The “cure” cannot be explained by the present malaise. And please spare me with the projections of “experts”. This is like the investment experts lecturing where the Dow Jones index will be at the end of the year. The cure that we are shoved down our throats at present may lead to many more deaths by suicide and otherwise ruined lifes. The “elites” will acquire what is left for peanuts. The authorities are gloating over their newly found power: people keeping social distance of each other with the mass media, celebrities and crisis actors being left as the only source of information. It may be indeed the ascend of a new world – but not because of the danger of COVID-19 which is one of hundreds of known corona viruses and already the ninth being transmitted from animals to humans.

    2. “ …find productive activities for displaced workers to be transitioned into while the health crisis continues,…”

      At the same time as up to 5m self-employed workers in the UK are facing lockdown-imposed unemployment, with none of the protections offered to laid off employees, the government is simultaneously appealing for a quarter of a million so-called “NHS Volunteers” to deliver food, medicines etc to locked-down vulnerable people!

      Where is the joined up thinking?

      FFS, recruit amongst the workless self-employed, and pay them the living wage!!! WTF is wrong with this government???

      The same short-sighted idiocy is evident in London public transport planning; just as the tubes, local trains, and buses were beginning to empty out, thanks to social distancing, and there was plenty of space for people to sit apart, they cut the timetables for these services – with the blindingly obvious result that those services were then absolutely heaving and packed out by the remaining passengers.

      Absolutely beggars belief. But then the terminally useless Mayor of London was telling people as recently as March 3rd not to worry, because you couldn’t catch Coronavirus on the tube!

      In 2016, under Jeremy “H”unt’s Health Secretaryship, a pandemic simulation exercise was run, the result being that the NHS was short of beds and ventilators to deal with the casualties. Yet it was ignored, and no action was taken! Criminally negligent and unforgivable. Yet “H”unt, as Chairman of the Health Select Committee, has somehow now managed to paint himself as the urgent and responsible voice against Johnson and Hancock’s dithering. It’s outrageous.

      It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder why on earth anyone in their right mind would want to go into politics these days, but the calibre not only of our current leadership, but of anyone else waiting in the wings is so woeful, it does make you wonder where on earth the smart and capable people are, and what it is they’ve found to do instead?

    3. My rant today is about volunteering for public sector work. It’s another of those wonderful neoliberal marketing tricks that sounds good until you look inside the box.

      The state has got 250,000 people to work for the NHS for nothing. Those people can only do that because they have another source of income propping them up, and in the meantime they have stopped 250,000 people, who are on short-time, have been laid off, are self-employed with no clients or have been made redundant or whatever, receiving an income which they can use to pay rent/mortgages, buy food and pay for power and council tax – all of which ends up as income of other workers.

      The people who can do this volunteering have another source of income. That’s usually some sort of pension, generally for older people. Precisely the sort of people who need to be kept away from the virus.

      Plus once you have volunteers doing these social jobs you struggle to get a paid job created to do the.

      What should be happening is that the state hires all the spare labour – at £10 per hour for 35 hours per week – and then they’ll have as many people as required to do all the extra jobs that need doing.

      Can you imagine the uproar if the Supermarkets asked for volunteer labour to increase the capacity to resupply the shelves? Why isn’t there the same uproar when the public sector demands extra people to do the extra social care required.

      Volunteering – when there is a systemic shortage of work – is almost certainly denying somebody else a job and an income. Usually somebody who can’t make a rent payment.

    4. “And please spare me with the projections of “experts”. ”

      The mathematics is very simple. If you exceed the capacity of the ICU beds the death rate moves from 0.9% to 3-4%.

      You don’t need as much ICU capacity with Influenza. We know the disease and we know how to handle it. Covid-19 is far harder on the lungs and if there is no ICU for that person, they die.

      Uncontrolled Covid-19 would kill about 10 times what flu would do – simply due to lack of ICU beds. No political system can withstand people lying on trolleys drowning in their own juices.

      We have to flatten the curve so the ICU load is similar to Influenza. Then we might cope.

    5. @ Neil W,

      Looks we had the same response to this good old, British, everyone muck in, spirit of the Blitz, nonsense.

      Yet 100,000 have already volunteered. Silly sods.

      Not only is it despicable to see this fourth generation neglectful Tory government appealing to the better nature of the population (a better nature, by the way, that absolutely no Tory politician of the last 40 years has ever once demonstrated!) to contribute voluntarily to the ‘war effort” – and to “Protect the NHS”, that they themselves have been on a mission to sabotage, privatise, and, by deliberate policy, allow – no, encourage – to rot and wither on the vine.

      But there is also that rather nasty, cynical, and subtlely manipulative implication that becomes apparent around the time of Children in Need and Comic Relief, that, in common with all charitable activity, somehow, if you’re not on board with the whole BBC- and-tabloid promulgated circus – or, god forbid, criticise it in any way – then you’re guilty of the very ill-will and parsimoniousness that has, in actual fact, been ceaselessly and relentlessly demonstrated by none other than the Tory Government itself!

      Playing the “strivers and skivers” card yet again…they can’t bloody help themselves, the vermin.

    6. Hi Neil,
      Thanks for the simple ICU example. The problem stems from running health services at -20% capacity instead of with a spare capacity of +20%.
      This may explain the difference between the German & Swiss mortality rates and those of Italy & Spain, who have a very depleted hospital budget. 15 years of abject austerity.

    7. One more thing… cynically using the “NHS” brand to recruit volunteers for a service , that is not actually directly NHS-related (i.e. delivery of day to day supplies to stay-at-home vulnerable groups) smacks of a devious appeal to emotion and an unprincipled tactic to manipulatively leverage the undying support that British people have to their National Health Service.

      And don’t even get me on the re-naming of the killing sheds that will be the Excel centre next week, now branded as the “Nightingale Hospital”!

      It’s rapidly turning into a ghoulish and bizarre PR exercise – but that should come as no surprise I guess, because that’s all this government knows.

    8. @ Non Economist,
      You claim to not be an economist. Yet you are spouting the myths of Neo-liberal economics.

      We on this blog site all understand MMT which you strangely don’t seem to grok.

      MMT says that what you fear from the lockdown and other measures being taken WILL NOT COME TO PASS.
      Well, if it is done right. If it is not done right, then who knows.
      But, we do know that “business as usual” will cause massive damage to the economy also. And it will kill more people. Many, many more people. Maybe even you or someone you love.

      Frankly, I find it strange that Bill doesn’t block your posts as totally ignorant and useless. OTOH, he may leave them up so we can see the drivel his email box contains.

      Bill, I have forgone stronger words in hopes you will not block me.

    9. Hi Bill,
      I have been meaning to comment on Peter Green for a while and now that I am less busy due to CV, I have time.
      In Nov 2003 I went to The Cambridge Corn Exchange, a small venue, to see John Mayell followed by Peter Green Splinter group. John Mayell was technically perfect, very professional but quite unexciting for a live band, a bit like Argent use to be.
      Then the man I came to see took the stage. I didn’t recognize him, short, fat, round old?, I had the young version still in my memory. I was close to the stage and as soon as he played that guitar it was like magic. I have never before heard or felt the musical expression he conjured from those strings and I have seen many of the greats from Jimi to Eric.
      Being so close was a privilege and a revelation, 10 times better than recordings, hair raising & shivers down the spine. What a shame that he didn’t have a full career, what a waste of a genius.

    10. It takes very little knowledge and absolutely no imagination to understand “hospitals will be overwhelmed” and all that entails. Anybody still arguing against locking everything down immediately can and should be dismissed as a bad faith troll. We no longer need to unpack facts and figures from experts or dire warnings from talking heads when we have unfolding real-life horror in technicolor from Italy. Don’t feed the troll(s).

    11. Dear Steve American,
      Why don’t you come up with arguments instead of demanding that the website block opinions which differ from yours? What I was saying, based on the facts presented, is that after four months we are in the range of 1%-2% of the fatalities of the annual influenza. So I am asking how is such a media hype and reaction by the authorities justified this time (shutting down whole societies and economies) and why such measures are completely absent during the annual flu despite the latter infecting more people and consequently leading to more hospitalizations and fatalities.

    12. The banner under which Non Economist is marching – viz “the cure is worse than the disease” – conflates two processes which belong in entirely separate categories.

      “The cure” is socio-economic in nature, applied through societal channels – commerce, transportation, the law, etc, etc. “The disease” is a medical condition, an infection contracted *by individual people*, in a certain percentage of cases fatal.

      I wonder whether if Non Economist (or the ineffable Trump for that matter) were as an individual to be infected by “the disease” – which I hope for his/her sake s/he won’t be – s/he would continue to maintain that “the cure” was worse? Especially if it turned nasty?

      Why is it, I wonder, that something makes me doubt that? Could it be that in spite of his/her lack of empathy I still assume him/her to have all of a normal human being’s primal instincts – such as self-preservation.

      And I disagree with suggestions that Bill should have blocked his/her posts. This is supposed NOT to be a self-referential bubble where we just reinforce each other’s accepted opinions.

    13. Non Economist makes a very basic mistake. Hospital admissions for the (regular) flu are factored into healthcare budgets. COVID 19 admissions will be on top of what has already been organised. When our healthcare experts tell us our hospitals will reach capacity in a few weeks they are not pushing some conspiracy theory. Doctors will be making serious decisions about which patients receive access to health resources.

      Can I just say again, COVID 19 will be placing EXTRA strain on hospitals. It is not an either/or equation. COVID 19 or regular flu. It will be both.

    14. “This may explain the difference between the German & Swiss mortality rates”

      The difference in the mortality rates is down to the different testing regimes. Germany is capturing a far wider set of people than other nations, but its mortality curve is following the usual path.

      Mark Handley who is a CS professor at UCL is maintaining a set of graphs on his site on Covid-19 that are about the best I’ve seen. They map the lag and deviation logarithmically.

      All that is happening is Germany is shining a brighter light than other nations. The only true outlier at the moment is Japan. Other than that everybody else is following Hubei on the Road to Hell.

    15. “I don’t support the ‘cure is worse than the disease’, when the cure is really about maintaining the current neoliberal distribution mechanisms…. We need a cure for both COVID-19 and neoliberalism.” When more of us begin to think in this manner and grasp the bigger picture, we will work our way out of this pandemic and into a more humane way of life. It’s almost as if this virus were a warning sign, telling us that we were already hellbent on the highway to social degradation and global ecocide. No one knows where all of this is headed, but for the first time in decades the end of neoliberalism, once thought to be the end of history, is on the table.

    16. One wrinkle in discussing Covid-19 mortality rates is that Covid-19 isn’t a closed book yet.
      Data from Automatic Earth, using data from Worldometer:
      Total cases: 434,568
      Deaths: 19,602
      Recoveries: 111,853

      We can calculate a mortality rate of deaths/total cases: 0.045

      But unlike the 2017-2018 flu, it isn’t a closed book
      There are still active cases (Total – Deaths – Recoveries): 303,113
      and we don’t know what will happen to those people.
      As it is, the closed cases (Deaths + Recoveries) amount to 131,455
      Death rate within closed cases: 0.149

      Raul Ilargi Meyer at the Automatic Earth blog tracks these numbers every day.

    17. Epidemic, a wonderful word to use to conjure up fear and widespread threat to life.

      Human history is replete with them, not only in disease – wars, religions and even economic systems have been represented in such rife forms.

      We will move on amid the moral and practical changes that society accepts as a necessary penance for our negligence and complacency in letting such a destructive episode happen in the first place.

      In our modern era it is the economic consequences that bear heaviest; how foolish have we been to allow materialism to supersede the higher ideals of Socialism; to accept the exploitive tendencies of Capitalism to undermine our desire for equality and fairness.

      But faced with the practicalities of re-building a society broken on the rack of torture will we finally adjust to a new ideological order. The answer does not lie in the power of persuasion but in the power of economic and social strength; the strength to make the regime work in the face of competing forces. How equal is that contest?

    18. I find comments that are likening what is occurring to a media beat up interesting.

      “Did you ever experience a worldwide lockdown and media-fanned mass hysteria on such a big scale because of the flu season?”

      When was the last time you saw the medical system of extremely well resourced countries such as Italy and Spain completely overwhelmed by the flu? Italy for example, has had 7000 deaths despite weeks of complete lockdown.

      They had over 3 million diagnoses of flu in 2019, with approximately 50 deaths. http://www.ansa.it/english/news/general_news/2019/01/31/39-flu-deaths-so-far-this-season-iss_f8f8ab54-c507-4816-b1dd-375ff61087de.html

      It is patently obvious this is a far more insidious disease, both in its rapid contagion and virulence. Suggesting that somehow what is occurring is a media beat-up is wide of the mark.

    19. One dead so far in SF and with multiple preexisting conditions. Some how I’m missing the curve.
      Let’s not let MMT become an exercise in “life imitating art” self delusion. We’ve had decades of that with the Austrian school.

    20. The “we” Gogs you talk about is the 1 percent.

      I do my day job as a scientist, i just don’t get paid a dignified living wage. I learn economics and politics so I know what is going around the world and how to roughly solve things.

      I am quite aware of the problems we face and I accept a new economic order.

      None of this is my problem because I have done my job. Middle class economists, lawyers, businessmen, rentiers, academics, and politicians who know better and sold their souls to wage slavery are the problem.

    21. The social experiment of doing virtually nothing about the spread of coronavirus has been performed in 1:1 scale in Iran. Please don’t believe their official statistics, the number of infected is much higher, I know this from someone who was born there. On the other hand things aren’t nearly as bad as in Lombardy. It is possible they have reached the peak. Herd immunity will follow, etc.

      The main difference is the average age of population. I am not entirely convinced we want to reproduce the same experiment, having different age distribution, in any Western country even if some Western leaders are as cynical as the Ayatollahs. We need to be aware that it may be too late in some places in the US and the runaway chain process is already ongoing.

      It takes about 2 weeks for any social distancing measures to take effect.

    22. Having read all of the above comments I was no clearer on what the true affects of this virus are.
      Thomas writes ‘ Italy for example, has had 7000 deaths’ & ‘they had over 3 million diagnoses of flu in 2019, with approximately 50 deaths’
      When I research this the Italian sites say totally different figures.
      The Istituto Superiore di Sanità shows a record of 3200 COVID-19 patients dying in Italy.* Up to 20 Mar. (* COVID-19 related deaths presented in this report are those occurring in patients who test positive for SARSCoV-2 RT by PCR, independently from pre-existing diseases.)
      The president of the Italian Civil Protection Service stresses that these are deaths “with the coronavirus and not from the coronavirus“. In other words, these persons died while also testing positive.
      Then I checked the EuroMOMO website who publish weekly bulletins of the all-cause mortality levels in up to 24 European countries. They are showing a slightly lower than average mortality rates across Europe & Italy, including the UK, as of March 15. This comes with a note that it takes 2 weeks of delay in death registration and reporting, so additional increases may appear in the next 2 weeks. Though the elevated mortality reports (7000 as above) in the media will also be out of date.
      So on to seasonal Flu & colds etc. Recorded deaths in Italy since Oct are at least 250 but other figures show Flu related deaths for previous years in the thousands.
      Now I am getting confused, so taking my fathers death as an example, 96 years old and the certificate says cause was Pneumonia. He may have lasted longer in an ICU but no one in their right mind would have subjected a weak old man to that lingering death. Right, research that and I find that there were 131,000 deaths recorded as caused by Pneumonia, in the EU, in 2016. Pneumonia is the result of a bacteria, viruses or fungi infection in the small air sacs known as alveoli. You don’t catch Pneumonia, it is the description of the symptoms caused by say Flu or even a minor virus chest infection (cough) that you immune system is too weak to combat.
      I can only conclude that what is written on the death certificate determines the severity of a contagious infection. This makes it very difficult to compare true statistics of Covid-19 if every one who tests positive is counted when normally no one gets tested for known seasonal viruses and the cause of death is recorded as Pneumonia.
      From my local hospital information this virus is adding to the need for more ICU care & respirators so there appears to be an additional load. But is that any different from a very bad Flu year when cause of death is called Pneumonia and the patient never got anywhere near a respirator. I don’t know, the stats aren’t available.
      So either I catch it & die (heavy smoker) or in 2 years time I will be able to look at the EuroMOMO mortality figures and see how much higher they were in 2020.

    23. It’s simple. Untreated Covid19 has a mortality rate of about 3-4%. Unmitigated, you can basically apply it to the whole population. Then you add up everyone else who needs an ICU in those months and everyone not in the ICU with a weak immune system for various reasons – forget doing any chemotherapy, for example.
      “Luckily”, we’re on track to almost to see the effects by examining the US vs. the EU. We might even get to see if people keep going to big gatherings and keep the economy going as the bodies of their friends and family pile up on ice rinks as they wait for the military to dump them in a mass grave. Well, some gatherings, for some reason the very capitalist entertainment industries all closed shop for the foreseeable future and became part of the hysteria, they must all be wrong about the risk of losing valuable assets.

    24. “for some reason the very capitalist entertainment industries all closed shop for the foreseeable future and became part of the hysteria, they must all be wrong about the risk of losing valuable assets.”

      I was thinking along those lines – if this is all just mass-hysteria, shouldn’t the market soon sort it out effectively?

    25. Agree with Neil Wilson and Mr. Shigemitsu,

      It looks like the Tories are doing CaMoron’s ‘Big Society’ act where banks and corporations get benefits and the public a big, greasy, condescending pat on the head for (as CaMoron used to put it) ‘doing the right thing.’

      Already the ghastly Matt Hancock who was one of the slimiest austerity merchants in the Government was patting the NHS on the back, the ghastly runt who has never done an honest day’s work in his life talking to people on the front line who have been stressed to distraction over the last ten years.

      Yet the servile mentality of the English (probably not so pronounced in Scotland and Wales) is indomitable! No one will complain and the pat on the head will have a nice, comforting SSRI effect.

    26. @Robert H

      ‘And I disagree with suggestions that Bill should have blocked his/her posts. This is supposed NOT to be a self-referential bubble where we just reinforce each other’s accepted opinions.’

      Absolutely! I totally agree. We have ‘crossed swords’ a few times and I think that is not a bad thing (as long as it is reasonably civil!). Bubbles whether asset or ideological are not a good thing.

    27. “It’s simple. Untreated Covid19 has a mortality rate of about 3-4%. Unmitigated, you can basically apply it to the whole population.”

      No it isn’t, no it doesn’t, and no you can’t.

      You cannot deduce the mortality rate (I think you probably mean the infection fatality rate) from the case fatality rate (CFR), which has the number of CONFIRMED cases as the denominator. We do not know how many infected but unconfirmed cases there are, and it is believed that there are likely to be many. So the CFR does not represent the true probability of death from the disease. And similarly, you cannot extrapolate from the CFR to the crude mortality rate, as you need to know the infection fatality rate and the proportion of the population that is infected.

      The decision to lock down countries has been made based on frightening CFRs, which vary significantly according to location, testing protocols, etc., but we really don’t know what the underlying crude mortality rate is going to be.

    28. Frightening times indeed.
      I’m a supported independent living support worker. We all work shifts where we stay overnight. There’s one communal bed for all staff to use. I just had an email exchange with my boss where I pointed out the infection risk to staff via the communal bed and was assured all we needed to do was wash the bed linen and hang it in the sun to dry because she read sunlight kills the virus.
      Did I say frightening times? I meant terrifying.

    29. @Non Economist

      The CDC paper you linked to doesn’t show a influenza mortality rate of 1.8% – that’s the hospitalisation rate. The mortality rate for 2017/18 influenza season was 0.13%.

      It’s difficult to get an accurate read on the mortality rate of COVID19 right now because we have no idea how many undiagnosed cases are floating around out there, but the experience of the Diamond Princess can give us a pretty good idea because everyone was tested and tracked. The mortality rate was 1.3% – 10 times more than the influenza mortality rate. And please bear in mind these were small numbers of people who had access to ICUs and ventilators.

    30. Kathy, don’t waste your time with idiots like non-intelligent. People who think the economy is more important than people.

      No expertise here, but I recommend plenty of bleach in the washing of the bed linens. And maybe spraying a dilution on the mattress while it is washing. Bleach doesn’t cost much and kills just about anything.

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