Posts Tagged ‘global health’

COVID-19: What’s changed today?

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Health & Wellbeing

The WHO has now released today’s situation report. Here are some of the headlines:

  • China and South Korea are still seeing deaths, but not many.
  • Italy recorded 649 deaths, compared to 795 yesterday. It has dropped before and then continued to rise, though.
  • The US has reported 201 deaths today, doubling their total. As none were reported yesterday, could just be delayed figures?

Let’s update the graphs.

Deaths per day

Deaths per day graph

Let’s hope today’s result is a sign that Italy is turning the tide and not just an anomaly. On the other hand, let’s hope the US result is an anomaly based on delayed data and goes back to normal tomorrow.

My previous graph showed the incorrect figure for the UK yesterday, which I have now corrected in this graph.

Cumulative deaths

Cumulative deaths since the 10th death graph

Nothing terribly important to report here, I think. Italy and Spain are still on scary trajectories. It’s too early to say what is going on in the UK. We might follow China. But it is important to remember that Italy weas behind China until day 15. We’re only on day 10, so there is plenty of time for it to accelerate on Italy’s path.

Massively simplistic rules of thumb are a bad idea. But let’s make some anyway. It’s unlikely to start magically dropping at this point (see below), so anything below or around 331 cumulative tomorrow would be a good result. Anything significantly above that would be a bad result. And anything around the 381 mark would be a terrible result.

Social distancing has a delayed effect

One final thought: there is probably at least a 14-day delay between implementing social distancing and seeing any benefit. The virus has an incubation period, then five days of fever and coughing, then the respiratory issues kick in.

We implemented our first set of social distancing (telling people to work from home and not gather in groups) on Tuesday 15 March. That’s six days ago.

We implemented our second set, closing schools and telling people “seriously, stay away from each other” on Saturday 21 March. That was two days ago.

That means that we have 8-12 days of nobody was social distancing damage before we even get to the “we told you all to distance, not cough on each other in the royal parks” damage, which may or may not be resolved. What you do today affects what happens in the ICU two weeks from now.


Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Sport

Fed up of your 2020 races being cancelled and lacking motivation? Let me introduce you to the Covidman triathlon.

Triathlon training is hard. It requires a lot of dedication. Ideally, it requires a goal. That is why so many of us pick some big A races each year and work towards them. But the 2020 season is not giving us any of that. Early races, as far as World Triathlon Leeds in June, have already been cancelled. Many more cancellations are likely to follow.

So, how do we stay motivated when there is nothing to train for?

I’m proposing Covidman. It is an unsupported one-person race you do by yourself. Pick your distance and swim, bike and run as appropriate.

This is a tricky proposition in itself. Namely, where does one swim? If the pools remain closed, it is unlikely there will be organised swim sessions. Let’s hope the North Sea is nice and warm this year, if so. And certainly worth investing in a tow float.

The bike course should be less of a problem as there are very few cars on the road. On long format, toilet breaks might need to be rather natural, and some homemade aid stations might become necessary. Short format could be done on a turbo, although I find anything more than an hour of indoor cycling to be deeply uncomfortable on my bottom.

Finally, the run. Even in short format, most people appreciate an aid station by this point, so perhaps laps around our houses might be the best option.

It should be clear by this point that I don’t really have a plan. Just a rough outline and an ironic name. But I am no longer training aimlessly: I’m training for Covidman.

Some COVID-19 stats

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Health & Wellbeing

I’ve been running some numbers based on the situation reports provided by the World Health Organisation. It is not a fun read. But the situation should improve once the first shipment of thoughts and prayers arrive in Europe.

I’m happy to take feedback on these. I’m not a statistician (although there is a lot of stats in psychology), and if you are one and think my graphs are terrible and misleading, I’m open to being corrected.

Deaths per day

Graph of deaths per day in major countries

China has the most deaths because they have been dealing with this for a long time. People have been dying for 7 weeks now. But not many people and their levels have been going down. The deaths per day in Italy and Spain is far out-racing anything than China saw.

To clarify, this is not cumulative. Even a flat line represents a lot of people dying. A line going up suggests the problem is getting a lot worse.

China still has a problem

Graph of deaths per day in China

This shows the number of deaths per day in China over the past two weeks.

The media are reporting that life in China is going back to normal and that any remaining cases are from people arriving in China. It is true that life is starting to return to normal and people are going outside again. Emergency hospitals have closed and travel restrictions have gone.

However, people are also still dying and the World Health Organisation still reports local transmission.

How far in are we?

Total deaths since 10th death per country

This shows the cumulative number of deaths since the 10th death. I followed the Financial Times’s lead on adjusting it this way as, for example, France had one death very early on and then none for a long time. Once you reach the tenth death, you get a far more accurate picture to compare against. Unlike the FT graph, it is not logarithmic. Their graph is just better, to be honest.

At this stage, it is pretty difficult to predict what the UK curve is going to do. We’re only on day 9, compared to day 26 for Italy, day 14 for Spain and day 60 for China.

Coronavirus: A review so far

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 | Life

Let’s review where we are so far. 2020 is a write-off, so I am going to attempt to summarise what has gone wrong.

First, a bunch of people are dead. Sure, so far, many more people are dying of regular flu, cancer, heart disease, the effects of global warming, and capitalism. But those are everyday deaths that we’re used to. This is something new.

Also, a lot of people are ill and having a bad time. Many of the rest of us are torturing ourselves with anxiety because we are unable to switch off the news.

There is no toilet paper or paracetamol. In fact, many supermarket shelves are empty. There is no rice, pasta, bread, tinned food or a wide range of other items. God help you if you don’t have a stockpile of hand wash, and even if you have some ibuprofen, nobody knows if it is safe to take it anymore.

The government says get your groceries delivered, but here is the availability when I checked:

  • Sainsbury’s: no delivery slots at all
  • Morrisons: no delivery slots for 3 weeks
  • Ocado: no delivery slots for 3 weeks
  • Waitrose: no delivery slots for 2 weeks

We’re not allowed to see our friends. Social gatherings are discouraged. Social activities and hobbies are cancelled. We’re deprived of human contact. We all have to work from home, and every company is finding out their VPN can’t handle the load after all.

Nobody is buying anything and so businesses are going bankrupt. That means people are losing jobs. Other companies are terminating people before it comes to bankruptcy.

All the schools and nurseries are closing, meaning that most people cannot go to work and are either having to take unpaid leave (possibly for up to six months!) or losing their job. Nurseries cannot afford to lose fees, so they’re charging parents for childcare they’re not providing.

All holidays are cancelled as borders close. Some people are stuck elsewhere.

All participatory sport is cancelled. Pools and gyms are closing. Running club, triathlon club, cycling club have all suspended activities indefinitely. All of our races are getting cancelled as far as June. Almost nobody is talking about a refund. Which is a big deal when Ironman are charging £400 per head.

All professional sport is cancelled. The Giro is “postponed”, but where else are you going to fit a three-week cycling race? Football is cancelled, even though Leeds are at the top of the league. F1, triathlon, marathons, ice hockey, everything is cancelled or postponed. Everything we look forward to relaxing with is gone.

Even the misery of being stuck at home is being made more miserable by the EU demanding Netflix reduce streaming quality to “help the internet cope”. And no Eurovision!

On the bright side

So far, it’s been pretty rubbish. But there are good things, too.

People are following social distancing advice and going out less. The roads are quiet. Fit, young people who have little to lose personally are still mostly staying at home to protect vulnerable people.

People have been getting together on video chats for pub nights and virtual group rides on Zwift.

Supermarkets are creating thousands of jobs as they try to keep up with demand.

It turns out we can work from home and that those meetings were not necessary. It’s too late to put the genie back in the box.

The Conservative government have turned out to be raving socialists.

There has been a significant reduction in pollution as planes stop flying and cars stop driving. Dolphins have returned to the canals of Venice.

Corona beer is available for large discounts.

Summary so far

Not the 2020 we all wanted. But we can get through this together. I mean, together as long as we maintain at least two-metres distance. And it may change society for the better.

Of course, in the UK, we’re really just at the start of things. I may be writing another blog post in eight weeks saying “why did I try to put a brave face on things; everything is burning!” Or, I may write nothing, because I am dead.

But until then, stay strong and see you soon.

The Impatient Optimist

Monday, February 11th, 2013 | Religion & Politics

Recently, Bill Gates delivered the 2013 Richard Dimbleby Lecture, in which he discussed the struggle to eradicate polio from the world.

The good news is, that it is now only endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

This in itself is no small achievement – polio is a disease that takes weeks to diagnose, which means the percentage of the population you need to immunise is higher, in this case 95%.

Take a country like India, with over a billion people – 75,000 new babies are born every day, and each of them requires several rounds of immunisation. That means that you need 200,000 vaccines per day, that need to be taken to rural communities, while being refrigerated, often that need to be carried for miles on foot by health workers. No wonder it took a staggering 2,000,000 people working on the programme – but they did it!

Unfortunately, you can’t stop fighting it until it’s eradicated, but with only three countries to go, the plan is to read that milestone by 2018. But more than being about one single disease, Gates points out…

Polio eradication is a proving ground, a test. It will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we can be about the future.

Together, we can achieve great things.