By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
As the mean daily compound growth rates both in total confirmed cases and in total deaths continue to drop in most countries in the direction of levels at which it might become safe to end the lockdowns (in those countries that have them), one question continues to be difficult to answer. What is the true case fatality rate? In other words, what fraction of those who become infected will die?
During the early stages of a pandemic, the least unreliable way to get a handle on the case fatality rate is to look at the closed cases – those who have been infected and have either recovered or died. However, innumerate governments, not realizing that for this reason counting those who have recovered is no less important than counting those who have died, have been negligent in keeping proper track of recoveries. Indeed, Britain has proven so incompetent at keep track of those who have been discharged from the centrally-managed hospitals in the Government’s care that yesterday it abandoned the publication of daily recovery counts altogether. In consequence of such mismanagement, ten days ago the ratio of deaths to closed cases in the world excluding China and occupied Tibet was 27%.
The World Health Organization, which has not covered itself in glory in handling this pandemic, originally estimated a case fatality rate of 2% and then revised it to 3.4%. But it had originally estimated that the SARS case fatality rate was 2%, and it came out at 10%.
Fig. 1. Mean compound daily growth rates in confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from March 28 to April 13, 2020. A link to the high-definition PowerPoint slides is at the end of this posting.
Fig. 2. Mean compound daily growth rates in reported COVID-19 deaths for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from April 4 to April 13, 2020.
The study by Imperial College, London, that led Boris Johnson to decide that he could no longer safely heed the “herd immunity” crowd predicted that, in the absence of control measures, some 7 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion people would become infected this year, and that 40 million of these would die, an implicit case fatality rate of 0.6%.
By casting deaths backward by three weeks and calling them confirmed cases, cumulating those and then casting them forward at the case growth rate then prevailing, my own calculations suggest a case fatality rate of somewhere between 0.1% and 1%: one cannot narrow it beyond that at present because the data are inadequate, and different countries have different methods of counting cases, recoveries and deaths, and even change their methods from week to week.
The useless World Health Organization ought to have developed a standard reporting protocol by now, but if there is such a thing there seems to be little evidence that it is being followed.
However, if 7 billion become infected and the case fatality rate is 0.1%, 7 million people would die of the Chinese virus if no treatment or cure were found. If the case fatality rate is 1%, make that 70 million. These numbers are large enough to matter, so the random serological trials now being conducted are important. The first results should be available in a week.
For comparison, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 killed 50-100 million (though the global population was less than a quarter of today’s). And HIV has killed 30-50 million, but has taken the best part of half a century to do so.