Coronavirus: Will Britain Really Have The Highest Mortality Rate In Europe, As A US Study Shows?
May 20, 2020
Within four weeks, the UK will have 66,314 deaths from COVID-19, as per a recent report in the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Analysis (IHME). This could result in the UK having the maximum number of fatalities from almost any nation in Europe — based on the report, more than Italy (a total of 23,000) and Spain (19,209).
At first glance, this new model appears to suggest that the problem in the united kingdom is worse than valued. But in the previous two weeks, we have seen several other predictions, including an Oxford University version which indicates that over half the UK population might already have been infected and an Imperial College model that forecasts up to 260,000 deaths from COVID-19 if the government had taken no actions.
Located in part about the data in the Imperial analysis, the UK government corrected its COVID-19 strategy and started introducing closures and physical distancing measures. The Imperial model forecasts that with these measures (including school closures, stay-at-home orders and physical distancing for the total UK population) the amount of deaths might only reach 20,000.
Prediction models are just estimates of what may happen and a model is only as good as the data that goes to it. The IHME model relies on the present rate of COVID-19 deaths in a specific country. This contrasts with several other models, which predict fatality rates by extrapolating from the amount of reported cases, of which we’ve got more information but of questionable accuracy (see below).
In Italy, the IHME model may be rather accurate as there’s a great deal of information on fatality rates with time. Yet from the UK there’s a restricted timeframe of COVID-19 fatalities and so less data by which to gauge future trends.
The IHME is planning to continually upgrade its model using new info, so the model will probably be accurate as time passes. But at present, the restricted number of data means the IHME model has a large assortment of possible outcomes, ranging from 14,572 to 219,211 deaths in the UK. This puts the IMHE and Imperial versions in roughly the exact same selection.
A Lack of True Data
All present COVID-19 prediction models suffer from a lack of accurate data on case numbers and fatality prices. This is because many COVID-19 infections are mild or possibly even curable and are usually not identified as confirmed cases.
Estimates are that around 86% of cases may not be identified as COVID-19. This number might be even higher in nations like the UK who have only been testing the most crucial and at-risk instances. Without knowing the true number of infections, it’s not possible to ascertain a precise case-fatality speed and so the accuracy of many predictions is limited.
The IHME model attempts to avoid this restriction by focusing only on fatalities. But there’s a similar concern that not all of COVID-19 deaths are being accurately reported. For example, those who pass away at home never been analyzed for COVID-19 may not be included in certain counts. Moreover, the IHME model may overlook new hot spots of disease, as fatality figures lag behind case numbers by one or two weeks.
At the moment, both case-based and fatality-based prediction models are limited by the quantity and quality of the data that is available.
The Worth of Models?
While these models might be unable to accurately predict the particular number of COVID-19 fatalities within the forthcoming months, they nevertheless offer a helpful glimpse of possible futures. For instance, in none of the predictions for the UK do we find fewer than 14,000 fatalities or more than 260,000 (if no interventions were shot ). This offers a context for policy choices and our collective actions.
We enjoy being able to quantify things and it’s a lot easier to convince people of the importance of physical distancing when we can say it will save 236,000 lives.
This might not wind up being the actual number but the truth is that we’re in the center of a deadly pandemic and it’s apparent that strong action is necessary to save many lives. Does this matter whether we are acting to save 20,000 or 200,000? We needed to behave either way — and we have. When looking into the future, we cannot tell how many will die of COVID-19, but we can assure it will still be too many.