posts ┬╗ COVID-19: catching up

COVID-19: catching up.

Homecooked Mexican
food Doesn't the world move quickly? Ten days ago, when I last posted, France had been in lockdown for a week, and the UK had just decided to join in. Since then, I've been incredibly busy - yet have barely left the house: yesterday I did my (what seems to be becoming my weekly) shop - hence why I was able to make the delicious Mexican food you see in the picture - and went for a run. First time I've left the house in a week (yes - since my last shopping) and that time was the first in a week too. I've been doing PE with Joe though, and plenty of other things.

Activities

As I said, incredibly busy. I seem to have even less time than I had before. Not only has my research work essentially started up again (we are an epidemiological research "lab" hence don't actually need to be on-site to do our research), I've also been working on a number of projects related to COVID-19, and then there's my entire social life to try and maintain as well. So without leaving the house, I've been easily working 18 hour days!. I discuss each of those things below, although not in that order.

COVID-19 research

I'll start with this, as I'm sure it's the bit most people are interested in. First of all, some updated graphics. Last time, I showed the trend on a linear and log scales in the number of deaths using data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering (JHU CSSE) repository for four countries: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. So here are the current versions of those graphs - the left is the linear and the right the graphs for the log scale, and first row shows counts from one death whereas the second row shows counts from 10 deaths.

Trends in reported deaths from COVID-19 for France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Trends in death since first reported death Trends in death since first reported death (log scale)
Trends since the 10th reported death from COVID-19 for France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Trends in death since first reported death Trends in death since first reported death (log scale)


Trends are heading in the same direction for all countries, no matter which graph you look at, as I'm sure you can see. I'll leave you to draw further conclusions yourself - you can leave your thoughts in the comments under this blog and then maybe I can respond later.

NB, if you're having difficulty distinguishing the countries, you can use your right mouse button to view each image file separately.

Having seen all this evolution, I decided to repeat the same thing but with a few more countries - this time, I also included Spain, China and South Korea. The results shown in the next figure - same ordering as above, with linear scales on the left and log scales on the right, first since 1 death and then since 10 deaths.

Trends in reported deaths from COVID-19 for China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
Trends in death since first reported death Trends in death since first reported death (log scale)
Trends since the 10th reported death from COVID-19 for France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Trends in death since first reported death Trends in death since first reported death (log scale)

Remember, China went into lockdown on January 23rd when 17 deaths had been reported. On the log scale curves, we can see that the death tolls in Spain and Italy both appear to be levelling off: we know that number of people dying in those countries remains high, but the trend seems to be towards slower increases. And yet both countries are considering increased measures, such as making face masks compulsory despite the lack of evidence that they make a difference. Even more worrying, France, the UK and USA are all on steep upwards trends still, although the French hope the peak will be reached in the next few days. I am less sure - indeed, the Guardian published a good article about why death rates are not accurate, and this is even more true for other measures such as the number of cases.

This last point is linked to some research I have become involved in: what is the death toll from coronavirus? The simple answer is, we do not know, and possibly never will. There is lots of misattribution - someone tests positive for the virus and dies from a heart attack, so they are labelled as a COVID-19 death. But were they going to die anyway from a heart attack, and did they just have a coincidental infection? What about people who die in such circumstances at home but were never tested? What about the person who was doing to have a bypass operation which was cancelled because the intensive care unit was full of patients with COVID-19, and who then goes onto die the next day? This last one is a true story, and there are many other similar cases happening around the country and around the world right now. The only way we can really look at how many people die as a result of the SARS-NCOV-2 virus is to look at all-cause mortality, which is exactly what we are doing. I'll let you know when we find something out.

Another idea we have been working on is related to the age-specificity of the infection. As we know, elderly people are most at risk. Indeed, David Spiegelhalter (Wikipedia article) wrote a great article comparing the death rate from COVID-19 to the "normal" annual death rate - I recommend reading it. But does the virus also move at different rates through different age groups? Social mixing is an important factor, and countries like Italy and Spain where older people tend to live with younger relatives seem to have had the epidemic sooner - and worse - than countries with less intergenerational social mixing. Again, as soon as we have anything to share, I'll be writing about it and letting people know.

Personal research

At the same time as all this, I have my own research to be getting on with. There's still work relating to the RECAP Preterm project, supervision of students, preparation of papers, unit meetings via teleconferences (if you want to get away from some of the worse effects of the untrustworthy 'zoom' software, check out this page written by a friend of mine) and so on. Life continues.

Social and personal life

I already mentioned that I've been doing more exercise although despite this I'm definitely enjoying my food! Indeed, I've been lucky enough to have a good televisual set-up in my home such that I've been able to share mealtimes with friends and even have virtual drinks with those I am close to such as for family members' birthdays towards the end of last month. In some respects, despite the distance, we are all getting a lot closer which is very nice.