By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
The scale of the Chinese-virus pandemic is now beginning to become visible. Yesterday, the death toll of 59,000 in the United States exceeded the 58,000 in the Vietnam war.
In Europe, 488,764 people died of all causes in the six weeks to mid-April, according to an analysis of data from the European mortality monitoring agency carried out by Sky News. That is 117,641, or 32%, above the 371,302 deaths that would be expected over those six weeks in an average year. Sky comments that while these excess deaths are not necessarily all caused by the pandemic, the majority are likely to have been caused by it.
Across Europe, weeks 14 and 15 were the worst for excess deaths, with 64% above the average in both weeks. In normal times, even a 15% excess-death figure is regarded as exceptionally severe.
Fig. 1. All-cause excess mortality and Chinese-virus mortality to early/mid April 2020.
In most European countries, excess mortality (gray in Fig. 1) has greatly outstripped reported deaths from the Chinese virus (blue). It is likely that most of the additional excess deaths are also attributable to the virus but have not been reported as such.
As Fig. 2 shows, the four countries with the greatest peaks in excess deaths are England, Spain, Belgium and Italy. England recorded the highest number of excess deaths anywhere in Europe for three consecutive weeks (14 to 16). For the past two weeks, England is alone in having scored more than 40% above the average: it did so in two successive weeks.
Sky News also reports that England has had more excess deaths per head of population than Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The most likely reason for this high mortality is England’s high population density, which increases the transmission rate of the virus, aggravated by the Government’s month of dithering before locking down the country, which allowed unchecked exponential growth every day.
Fig. 2. Mortality z-scores (%) for various European countries, weeks 1-16 of 2020.
Lack of sunshine contributing to widespread Vitamin-D3 deficiency among the large elderly population is another possible factor: of all the various nostrums for reducing the probability of infection and severity of symptoms, the one that has been demonstrated by a meta-analysis of clinical trials involving at least 10,000 patients to be efficacious against respiratory viruses is daily supplementation with 10,000 units (25 micrograms) of Vitamin D3.
The darker the skin, the more likely is Vitamin D3 deficiency in sunless, northern climes. The large immigrant population in Britain has proven more susceptible to the Chinese virus than the Caucasian population – another reason why the UK figures are so bad. Finally, the Government failed to provide clear, timely instructions to care-homes for the elderly, where there have been thousands of hitherto-unreported Chinese-virus deaths.
The Netherlands, France and Switzerland also saw a steep rise in excess deaths. In Scandinavia, not so much. In Denmark and Norway, the deaths so far are what would be expected in a normal year. However, no-lockdown Sweden shows a small but significant excess already, and, based on the date of the tenth Chinese-virus death, which in Sweden was March 18, against March 7 in Spain, March 12 in the UK and February 25 in Italy, the next few weeks will reveal whether the no-lockdown strategy has been a success. Even then, the greater severity of the pandemic in territories where population densities are a lot higher than in Sweden would not have allowed those territories safely to avoid lockdowns altogether.
England will be the worst-affected country in Europe. In one recent week, 22,351 deaths were recorded: more than in any other week since modern records began (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3. Weekly all-cause mortality, England & Wales, 1970-2000.
In England, as in the other worst-affected countries, the discrepancy between Chinese-virus deaths and total excess deaths is substantial (Fig. 4), suggesting that thousands more may have died of the virus than official death-counts show. Notoriously, HM Government has until now excluded deaths outside hospitals from the daily counts it announces. From today, however, under pressure from the news media, it will count the deaths properly.
Fig. 4. Chinese-virus and “other” deaths against mean all-cause mortality, England & Wales.
Sky News has commented that were it not for the lockdown in the UK the death count might well have ended up in the hundreds of thousands.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, the Professor of the Public Understanding of Statistics at Cambridge, said on All Fools’ Day that, since the Chinese virus chiefly strikes the aged and infirm, many of them would soon have died in any event – a viewpoint that has hitherto been echoed, regrettably, by some commenters here.
Now, just four weeks later, the very sharp increase in excess deaths not only in Britain but also in other European countries shows that the victims of the Chinese virus are dying significantly sooner with the virus than without it.
Our daily graphs show that the daily compound growth rate in estimated active cases remains positive in some of the countries we are tracking – notably the United States, England and Sweden. In Britain, at any rate, the lockdown will not be ended until the rate is well below zero. The Prime Minister has been quoting Cicero: salus populi suprema lex.
As today’s graphs (Figs. 5-6) show, the global daily compound growth rate in estimated active cases – the key indicator of how bad the pandemic will eventually prove to be, and of whether ending lockdowns will be a prudent step – is zero in the world excluding China and occupied Tibet, where the numbers are fictitious.
Tomorrow I shall provide a simple mathematical wrinkle that will allow anyone to convert any compound active-case growth rate below 0% into an estimate of the total cases that would eventually arise if that negative growth rate were to persist.
Fig. 5. Mean compound daily growth rates in estimated active cases of COVID-19 for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from April 1 to April 28, 2020.
Fig. 6. Mean compound daily growth rates in cumulative 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 8 to April 28, 2020.