Colleagues in Germany feel sure that their numbers are nearer the truth than most, because they had plenty of testing capacity ready when the pandemic struck. Currently the death rate is 0.8 per cent in Germany. If we assume that about one third of the recorded deaths are due to Covid-19 and that they have managed to test a third of all cases in the country who actually have the disease (a generous assumption), then the death rate for Covid-19 would be 0.08 per cent. That might go up slightly, as a result of death lag. If we assume at present that this effect might be 25 per cent (which seems generous), that would give an overall, and probably upper limit, of death rate of 0.1 per cent, which is similar to seasonal flu.
Let’s look at the UK numbers. As of 9 a.m. on Saturday there were 1,019 deaths and 17,089 confirmed cases – a death rate of 6.0 per cent. If one third of the deaths are caused by Covid-19 and the number of cases is underestimated by a factor of say 15, the death rate would be 0.13 per cent and the number of deaths due to Covid-19 would be 340. This number should be placed in perspective with the number of deaths we would normally expect in the first 28 days of March – roughly 46,000.’