COVID 19: Wave#3. How its going.

Click for a larger image. Logarithmic graph showing positive caseshospital admissions and deaths since the start of the pandemic. The blue arrows show the dates of recent ‘opening’ events. The green dotted line shows an extrapolation from the first week of June. The blue dotted line shows an extrapolation of current trends, doubling every 42 days. Also highlighted in purple are the Euro finals, and the dates of returns to school and university in 2020 and 2021.

Friends, I last wrote about the pandemic three weeks ago on August 7th. At that point it had just become clear (to me at least) that the late July peak in cases was associated with the Euros.

In the UK we are now experiencing the third wave of the epidemic which was happening ‘underneath’ the ‘Euro surge’. Viral prevalence is high and showing slow exponential growth – with cases, admissions, and deaths doubling roughly every 42 days.

There are currently:

  • More than 30,000 cases per day (x 30 compared with ~ 1000 per day at this time last year).
  • Almost 1000 admissions per day (x10 compared with ~ 100 per day at this time last year).
  • Over 100 deaths per day (x 10 compared with ~ 10 per day at this time last year).

In the weeks ahead we have the return to Schools and Universities in England. Based on last year (when prevalence was about 10 times lower) we might reasonably expect an increase in the number of cases admissions and deaths over and above the current trend. See the purple arrows on the graph above.

In the face of these facts, it might surprise many readers to know that life in the UK for many non-immunocompromised people has become very normal.

Are we all OK with this?

The Daily Mail points out that current death rates from COVID are no longer the greatest cause of death in the UK. The gist of their suggestion is that we should just get used to this.

[Note: as detailed in the figure caption, their numbers are out of date]

Click for a larger version. Article from the Daily Mail on Sunday 29th August 2021. The graphic is misleading because it uses older data on deaths and the death rate has been increasing. COVID Deaths are now over 700 per week and if current trends continue will exceed 1400 deaths per week at the end of September.

I understand and sympathise with this argument. But the argument is based on numbers now.

Being an epidemic, the prevalence of COVID will continue to increase and – as we have seen repeatedly – we can make decisions which seem reasonable now, but which commit us later to large numbers of cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

One lesson of the epidemic might be that modest precautionary steps taken early can avoid the need for drastic lockdowns – the only tool for dealing with a widespread lethal epidemic in its later stages.

Recall that roughly 1700 people die each day ‘normally’. So 100 people dying each day (6% of normal) may be considered ‘acceptable’.

But if things continue on current trends, then by the end of September 2021 we may be looking at 200 people dying each day (12% of normal), alongside 60,000 daily cases and 2,000 hospital admissions per day. The death toll from Wave#3 might be have reached 8,000.

And if things continue to continue on current trends for a further month, then by the end of October 2021 we may be looking at almost 400 people dying each day (24% of normal). The death toll from Wave#3 might have reached almost 15,000. This is probably not acceptable to most people – and certainly not me.

What to do?

I don’t know!

The Government appear to be in denial about these likely projections, which are similar to predictions by much more eminent people than I.

As I look at these figures  it is clear that the growth rate of the epidemic is being limited by vaccines, but it is still growing, albeit slowly.

Vaccination of children may help, but I suspect that any program started now will be too late to prevent a ‘back-to-school’ boost in cases and further growth through the autumn. Vaccination of 18 year-olds may well be sufficient to slow viral spread at Universities.

So unless we re-introduce some additional social distancing, it seems cases and hospital admissions and eventually deaths will all continue to grow. This is not to mention any risks of other variants or ‘long Covid’.

However the government seem indifferent to these harms, and all the associated suffering.

So it seems likely that things will continue on trend until – frankly – something politically embarrassing causes the government to act.

Or have I missed something?

2 Responses to “COVID 19: Wave#3. How its going.”

  1. carsort Says:

    Another factor to add to the chart – the takeovers of the alpha variant in Sept 2020 and the delta variant in May 2021. We keep lagging behind with our behavior while the virus gets more transmissible.


    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Yes, that’s a good point.

      I have avoided commenting too much on variants because their properties are so far out of my area of expertise.

      Instead I have just looked at the numbers and tried to answer the general question: “what’s happening?”

      Of course the nightmare scenario, which is not terribly unlikely, is that with the virus still widespread and infecting immunocompromised people, that a new variant will arrive which is more virulent still.

      This is such a horrible idea I am practicing not thinking about it!


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