Statistics and COVID

I have been struggling to decide whether to blog on this subject of statistics and COVID since January. Now that much of the globe is in some type of lock down, quarantine or ignorance, it seems more necessary. Not that my viewpoint is any better than many other posts. There has been an extensive misinformation, or misunderstanding of statistics, not helped by the media. There attitude at last seems to be changing to better reporting, rather than the fear they like to envisage.

Lets start with some basic facts:

World Population as at 2015 (census dependent) 7.35 Billion that is 7,350,000,000 with forecast to be over 7.7 by 2020

Actual confirmed deaths 18:35 on 20th March 2020 due to virus according to WHO as listed on 11,188

Actual confirmed mortality rate is therefore 11,200 divided by 7.35 billion which is


Because the population is likely to be higher than last full statistics the rate is actually lower on confirmed death cases.

So where the scare stories of 1% or 20% and any number in between come from is unclear. As a comparison TB caused 3 million deaths in 2016. Clearly this horrible virus spreads and kills and the deaths are tragic but dying from TB is still dying.

The 1% or higher numbers are actually an infected mortality rate. i.e. this requires a confirmed case and death assigned to COVID-19. Both numbers used for this are equally dodgy. The number of deaths is probably an underestimate e.g. deaths that are caused by it but not medically linked. However, the likely cases are a massive underestimate. Now we need to look at subsets of subsets of data, none of which are without error.

We start with World’s population 7.5 billion and work down from same source

  • immune not a carrier – unknown
  • carrier no symptoms – unknown
  • carrier minimal symptoms 166,000
  • Carrier medium symptoms – hospital 159,000
  • Carrier serious/critical – ICU – hospital 8,000
  • Death 11,200

As a comparator the UK has 660,000 deaths each year in population of 65 million and UK has had 177 deaths assigned to COVID-19 although all are reported as with underlying conditions

A sense of perspective is needed