Covid by numbers: 10 key lessons separating fact from fiction

1 More than 1000 separate outbreaks afflicted the UK in total
Genomic sequencing identified over 1,000 seeds of SarsCoV-2, which were introduced in 2020. We now know that there was more than one outbreak. Instead of one large, chaotic explosion spreading outwards, many were erupting simultaneously throughout the country. Far more Sars-CoV-2 imports from France, Italy, and Spain were recorded than direct flights from China. The peak occurred in March after half-term at school, which was a popular time for adults to take a holiday. Atltico Madrid and Liverpool played in the Champions League at Anfield on March 10, with 49,000 local fans and 3,000 supporters from the opposing side. Madrid schools were closed and supporters couldn't attend the matches. Liverpool lost 32 games, while Atltico Madrid lost 42.

2 Covid deaths reported depend on the day and week

Daily counts of 28-day deaths reported on the news do not reflect deaths occurring in the past 24 hours. They are only new reports. The numbers are consistent with a weekly cycle. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to have higher numbers due to reporting delays at the weekend. This has caused some drastic differences. There were 560 deaths in England on Monday 18th January 2021. The number rose to 1,507 the following day. These numbers become news because they are published at 4 pm each day. They are also given journalistic prominence regardless of their relevance.

3 Over-90s were at 35,000 times as likely to die from Covid-19 in the first year of Covid than young children.

There are extraordinary differences in the risks that different generations face. One in six60,000 schoolchildren between the ages of five and fourteen died from Covid-19 over the past year. 469 people died of other causes during the same time period. Nearly 30,000 people over 90 died from Covid-19, which is about six per 100. This was 35,000 times more than the death risk for schoolchildren.

The 4th of February 2020 was the most deadly date since 1918 in England, Wales and England.

Some have claimed that Covid-19's first year was less fatal than previous years. There were two years in which total deaths in England and Wales exceeded 600,000. These were 1918 and 2020, when a pandemic of influenza began.

Of course, we should allow for population growth. The trend shows steady falling mortality rates, followed by a noticeable rise in 2020. This is the highest level since 2003. This was the highest increase in mortality rates since 1941 when the Blitz killed many. If we look at the changing age profile, 2020 witnessed the largest increase in age-standardised deaths rates in 70 years. This was since 1951's major flu epidemic. In historical context, 2020 was an outlier.

5 The UK is the leader in testing Covid treatments

The UK Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Treatment (Recovery) has grown to be the largest international collaboration for trials on patients in hospitals with Covid-19. There are more than 180 hospitals participating and approximately 40,000 hospital patients. Recovery uses the unique NHS infrastructure to simultaneously conduct multiple overlapping trials so that patients can be part of many different studies. These trials have had a huge impact. Dexamethasone (a cheap steroid) had saved more than 22,000 lives in the UK by March 2021. As valuable as finding effective treatments are Recovery trials. They also revealed things that didn't show obvious benefits like hydroxychloroquine or convalescent plasma which were both promoted by the US president.

6 people who died from Covid had an average loss of 10 years in life.

Some people who were most vulnerable and died during the first wave of deaths would have lived a shorter time otherwise. When a series of extreme deaths is followed by a drop in mortality rates, this is known as mortality displacement. One of us, DS, was quoted saying that many people who died from Covid would have died within a short time. Others estimated that the proportion could exceed half. The small number of deaths in the next year proved us wrong. On average, Covid-19 deaths in Britain result in the loss of about 10 years of life, and globally, 16 years.

7 Covid was the most common cause of death, although many people have died from it. However, most of them also had other medical conditions.

Many people have claimed that Covid-19 was an incidental cause of many deaths. Covid-19 was listed on the death certificates for the first wave. It was the cause of more than 9 out 10 deaths. This changes when the virus is less common. In late April 2021, 32% of those who died from Covid-19 were diagnosed. Although cases are less severe when there is less virus around they tend to be more serious. However, the current infection was believed to have contributed in some way to the death.

It is very rare that there is only one cause of death. Pre-existing conditions were present in 91% of deaths from Covid-19. Alzheimer's disease was found in 25%.

8 The lockdown did not affect alcohol consumption

The virus and lockdowns can have a huge impact on the individual's responses. However, the Alcohol Consumption In England project discovered that while the number of high-risk drinkers increased significantly during the first wave, the number reporting a reduction in their drinking also rose. The provisional alcohol consumption was stable despite changes in drinking patterns when you look at paid duty. Alcovision's survey of over 80,000 drinkers revealed that the average drinking day did not change even when pubs were locked down.

9 The majority of people infected by Sars-CoV-2 are not infected

When the virus was introduced to susceptible populations without taking precautions, it has been estimated that 75% of those who were infected by the original strain did not spread the virus to others. Only 10% of the new cases were reported to have led to the creation of the vast majority (80%) of cases. Some are particularly contagious, but super-spreader events may also occur. One case of cold-like symptoms in Washington led to 52 infections in a choir that sang together for over two hours. Two of the 60 singers later died. Although the risk of contracting the disease increases with prolonged proximity, the relative risk of transmission is low. According to estimates, one in six households infected by the original strain was infected.

10 The pandemic was a net lifesaver to young people

For people between 15-29 years old, there were 300 fewer deaths in 2020 than the five-year average for England and Wales. Reduced violence and accidents could be one explanation. This would mean 300 fewer grieving family members. These families don't know who they are, as opposed to the 115 families who lost their loved ones to Covid-19. However, the pandemic had a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of young adults.

From Covid by Numbers by David Spiegelhalter & Anthony Masters