Covid-19 statistics: Do we actually know the way lethal this virus is?

Generally, statistics could be scary, or a minimum of, made to look extra menacing than what these unbiased, risk-adjusted numbers actually say.

Conversely, threatening, inconvenient information could be slighted, ignored, or maybe misrepresented as one thing innocent, and even useful.

Each the above circumstances apply to the reporting of information relating to the unfold of SARS-CoV-2 and the resultant pandemic of Covid-19.

Trying from a statistical viewpoint, one factor stands out starkly.

The information out there about Covid-19 is presently incomplete, therefore media hypothesis concerning the mortality (dying) fee and prevalence of an infection is generally that: Uncooked, uninformed hypothesis – and far of it’s about as helpful because the lies that consuming silver options or consuming garlic can stop Covid-19 (be aware that silver will not be even a metallic concerned in any human bodily processes).

That’s not to say the present information out there about Covid-19 is ineffective.

In statistics, the place information is incomplete, a number of strategies could be utilized to “clear up” the numbers and extrapolate the possible eventualities wanted to handle the scope, extent and injury completed by SARS-CoV-2 in numerous international locations.

And we have to know this data as quickly as attainable, in order that the world can know what measures are the simplest in defeating this coronavirus pandemic NOW, and in addition importantly, to take measures that may stop recurrences sooner or later.

The speedy thought of Covid-19 is that there are solely two outcomes which might be of main curiosity:

  1. Restoration from the illness
  2. Loss of life

On this case, a easy estimator, corresponding to Kaplan-Meier, could also be relevant the place the true Case Fatality Charge (CFR) could be predicted as soon as we will set up a dependable worth for the size of time between detection of Covid-19 and dying (T).

Nevertheless, trying on the World Well being Group (WHO) and US Centres for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) statistics, it will seem that there are very alternative ways individuals can survive or die from Covid-19, and it is very important perceive why completely different international locations have completely different charges for each occasions.

For instance, is it demographics (e.g. extra older individuals in some international locations) or is it associated to raised healthcare?

Or is it one thing else, or extra normally, a mixture of various elements?

Additionally, how does statistics assist finish this SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?

The next explains the info that the media needs to be offering and why they’re wanted.

Loss of life fee

One speedy drawback is the media give attention to the mortality fee of Covid-19.

The US information company CNN just lately reported that the dying fee is “lower than 1%”, and therefore, Covid-19 could not essentially be an enormous drawback.

The US authorities additionally likes to speak down the dying fee, usually quoting the upper mortality numbers from regular influenza.

Observe that these statements are made earlier than understanding the true Covid-19 CFR relevant in the USA.

CNN received its “lower than 1%” dying fee from South Korea, the place the present variety of infections (as of Mac 9, 2020) is 7,513 and the variety of deaths is 58, giving a rough dying fee of 0.77%. This quantity will not be statistically related.

The reason being as a result of the quantity for “T” will not be identified, but when we assume a low parameter of 10, then based mostly on the variety of infections on Feb 29 (2020) of three,150, the CFR must be adjusted to 58/3,150 = 1.84%.

So CNN might be very improper about reporting a dying fee of lower than 1%. That’s simply how statistics work when processed dispassionately.

The true CFR for regular influenza is 0.1%, and this quantity is derived from the identified statistics and distribution of influenza victims over a number of years.

Contagion fee

At current, the contagion fee often called “R0” (or common variety of new infections generated from a single contaminated individual) will not be identified exactly, however we now have a superb guess.

The sample of how Covid-19 spreads seems to be initially in small clusters, which instantly change into widespread inside a brief house of time.

That was the sample in Wuhan the place it started.

A newer instance is Italy the place solely 323 contaminated circumstances on Feb 25 (2020) exploded to 9,172 circumstances two weeks in a while Mac 9 (2020), an over 28-fold enhance.

Though the Italians declare shock on the infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2, they don’t have any proper to take action.

The contagion fee from Wuhan had been earlier investigated by Imperial School London in Britain.

To match the noticed unfold fee of the illness there, they calculated a transmissibility fee of two.6, i.e, each contaminated individual would infect 2.6 different individuals except quarantined.

The paper Transmissibility of 2019-nCoV was revealed on Jan 25 (2020) on the establishment’s web site, and was clearly not taken critically by many governments on the time.

The statistic is stark. So long as the worth of R0 stays considerably above one, SARS-CoV-2 will unfold relentlessly except it’s contained by extended quarantines.

As a comparability, regular influenza has a R0 of 1.5 and managed to contaminate an estimated 35,520,883 individuals within the US final 12 months (this was an enchancment from 45,000,000 the 12 months earlier than).

Importantly, there have been solely 491,000 flu circumstances that required hospitalisation within the US in 2019, or 1.38% of the entire contaminated with influenza.


With out a vaccine or standardised remedies, the one identified choices for containment are by way of:

  1. Stringent quarantines
  2. Early detection
  3. Contact tracing of all individuals related to any newly-detected an infection
  4. Scrupulous private hygiene, particularly relating to washing fingers with cleaning soap, and
  5. Social distancing (e.g. cancellation of large-scale public occasions, closing of faculties, and many others).

These steps have been rigorously enforced in China and the each day fee of latest Covid-19 infections is now the bottom on the earth in proportion phrases.

In statistical phrases, China has achieved the spectacular feat of lowering R0 from (an estimated) 2.6 to virtually 0.

Whether or not it will probably stay at this degree stays to be seen. Nevertheless, that is the goal R0 that every one international locations are required to realize to finish this pandemic.

Observe that a number of vaccines have been developed in opposition to influenza and it nonetheless managed to contaminate over 35 million individuals within the US alone final 12 months (2019).

As such the Covid-19 scenario stays perilous with none such preventive choices.

Chris Chan works in superior statistical and mathematical modelling of dangers in giant funding banks and infrequently applies his analytical experience to different fields corresponding to chemistry and biochemistry. He additionally writes the Curious Cook dinner column for StarLifestyle. For extra data, e mail The knowledge supplied is for instructional functions solely and shouldn’t be thought-about as medical recommendation. The Star doesn’t give any guarantee on accuracy, completeness, performance, usefulness or different assurances as to the content material showing on this column. The Star disclaims all accountability for any losses, injury to property or private harm suffered straight or not directly from reliance on such data.

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