‘It is the end of the affair. We are no longer at epidemic levels of covid-19 prevalence in the UK (0.27% of the population infected, where 0.4% is the low end required to be “epidemic”), and all-cause deaths have slipped back below average.
It seems a good time to look back on the extraordinary past few weeks and try and draw conclusions.
First: who has the disease killed? Covid-19 targets the old and the sick; this is not to be callous, but to understand the enemy and to provide context. The average age of those dying of covid-19 in the UK is over 80, and fully a third are residents of care homes where average “stay” (a euphemism I’m afraid) was only 30 months from admission before the virus anyway.
Our statistics agencies are only now following Italy’s lead and publishing the comorbidities of those dying from covid-19, and it is now clear just how extreme is the amplification of risk. 95% of victims dying with covid-19 have serious pre-existing conditions: not just background illnesses, but severe enough to be mentioned as causes of death on death certificates. The most prevalent are dementia and diabetes (a quarter of cases, each), hypertension (a fifth) and serious lung, kidney or heart disease (around a sixth each). In both the UK and Italy, the average victim had three comorbidities severe enough to be causes of death on a certificate.
Second: who hasn’t it killed? Parents, unions and nervy adults fret about the risk, but there is little need. With no serious pre-existing conditions, the young-ish and healthy are far more likely to be hit by lightning (49 occurrences per annum in UK) than to die of covid-19 (33 in England under age 40, of which only 3 under the age of 19). Panning out, among healthy under 60s (i.e. children and the vast majority of our working population), 253 people have died of covid-19 in English hospitals; this compares to 400 (non-suicide) drownings per year in the UK. And taking allage-groups where there are no pre-existing conditions serious enough to be mentioned as contributary causes of death, covid-19 has taken about 2/3rds the lives that British roads do every year, and we wouldn’t think of outlawing driving, swimming or going outside in a storm.
Even taking all deaths where covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate regardless of age or comorbidities, looking at the total toll: 43,000 lives is less than 2018’s excess winter deaths and would count as a bad, but by no means remarkable, influenza year.’