COVID-19 Discussion Thread #4

Started 6 days ago | Discussions thread
Chris R-UK Forum Pro • Posts: 20,213
COVID-19 statistics and their usefulness
4

I get frustrated that, here in the UK, the TV programmes and newspapers often tend to quote total numbers of reported cases and deaths rather than daily totals and graphs of daily totals to see trends.  I therefore started using this site that gives graphs by country, although the timing of the daily reset means that, in the US for example, data from East Coast states may fall into different days to data from West Coast states.  Individual country statistics, if available, can be found by clicking on the country links in the table.

In the last day or so, a French minister has said that reported deaths in France from covid are greatly understated because they only report deaths in hospitals and not in care homes and private homes.  These cases will only enter into the French statistics if there is an autopsy.  This has led me to think about problems of comparing statistics by country.

The first issue is that some governments may be falsifying statistics.  Russia seems to be a suspect.  I very much hope that China is not doing the same, because their statistics give us the best indications of how the epidemic may progress.  Other countries, especially poor countries with rudimentary heath systems and countries in war zones, may simply not be capable of collecting data.

Statistics on positive test suffer from the problem that the numbers will depend not only on the spread of the disease, but also on the amount of testing that is taking place.  So, very low reported cases may simply indicate a very low rate of testing.  More importantly, as many more test kits become available, reported cases may go up sharply because more tests are being carried out.  So, it seems to me, that reported cases trends may be too distorted to give a clear idea of the progress of the epidemic.

Reported deaths are another problem when comparing countries.  The problem in France has already been noted above and may apply to other countries as well.  Moreover, when a patient with multiple issues including covid dies, some countries may be reporting all of these as covid deaths while others may record the death based on the most significant cause, which may not be covid.  This may explain the very significant differences between, for example, Germany and other European countries.

However, although it may be difficult to compare death numbers and death rates between countries, provided a country does not change its criteria, graphs of deaths per day should give a good indication of trends of the progress of the disease.

Personally, I am giving most importance to the shape of the deaths per day graphs for different countries.  The graphs for China and South Korea give some indication of how long the peaks may last.  Let’s hope that there aren’t any major upturns in these graphs showing secondary outbreaks.

Othet data, opinions and corrections very welcome.

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Chris R

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