How does the danger of Coronavirus compare to everyday life?

The Coronavirus has been the almost singular focus of the attentions of the UK population for the last 4 months.

Great lengths have been taken to mitigate the spread of the virus such as the lock-down, and so many other measures taken by the government to ensure as many lives as possible are saved.

Professor Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge claimed in March 2020 that average mortality rate for the Coronavirus pandemic roughly matches with more average mortality rates across the UK. He noted that the mortality rate both normally and with the virus increases sharply with age.

“Most of the deaths in a year are those that are already chronically ill, and similarly for Coronavirus those that have died have almost always had some accompanying health problems.”

He plotted the average chances of mortality in the ‘next couple of weeks’ having contracted the virus, and compared them to the average chance of mortality more generally. He noticed that they very closely aligned with the average background risks across the ages.

“The risks for healthy people are a lot lower.”

This means that broadly speaking, the chances of an average individual contracting the virus and passing away from it, correlates almost directly to their age and health. This is not to say that a young healthy individual will not die from the virus. The professor states that the presence of Coronavirus ‘roughly doubles your risk of dying this year’.

“If you get the virus, you’re going to cram in a year’s worth of background risk.”

“If the virus was just allowed to let rip and we did absolutely nothing, then around 80% of people would get it, and about half a million would die. And that means essentially if everyone got it, around 600,000 would die which is a years worth of death. [in the couple of weeks it takes for the virus to take effect.]

In a nation of 66.65 million people, half a million is statistically small. This means that the virus, unchecked would claim just under 1% of the population. However, the purpose of the lock down and subsequent easing efforts was more to protect the NHS, which would be overwhelmed by such a surge in patients.

A common misconception about the virus is that ‘it’s like the flu’. The ‘common’ (another misconception) flu is persistent in one form or another and claims the lives of between 290,000 and 650,000 globally each year, according to the W.H.O. In the UK, the average rate of deaths for the ‘common flu’ rages from 17,000 to 30,000 each year. Compared to these figures, Coronavirus appears significantly more dangerous, but the caveat remains that the stated figures are for the virus being unchallenged.

With the lockdown, rules on masks and social distancing and easing measures in place, the aim of the government is prevent the spread of the virus (both the ‘common’ and Covid-19 variations) and keep the number of deaths within the yearly averages.

Broadly speaking, the Coronavirus represents a higher than average threat to the UK in terms of mortality rates. In infectiousness of the virus, coupled with the damage it can do to the human body and its mortality rate makes it significant. However the measures implemented to manage it, such as social distancing and masks do have an impact on the spread. While it is important to point out that unfortunately deaths were inevitable, it must be stressed that the purpose of the measures were to ‘space-out’ the deaths and hospitalisations, so the NHS was not overwhelmed by a sudden influx in cases.


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