# The excess burden of death from coronavirus COVID-19 is closer to a month than to a year

2 min readMar 22, 2020

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The Medium post by David Spiegelhalter from the Winton Center at Cambridge University is well written and reassuring ((see https://medium.com/wintoncentre/how-much-normal-risk-does-covid-represent-4539118e1196 and attached). It concludes that if infected with COVID-19, your risk of dying is the same as the risk of dying for the coming year from natural causes. This is true for all age groups. The article is fine except it is totally wrong. The correct conclusion is that “your risk of dying is the same as the risk for the coming MONTH from natural causes.

How can a error of ten-fold occur. The reason is that David Spiegelhalter uses the data from the highly respected center at Imperial College London (see https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf and attached). The Imperial data is based on the case fatality ratio (death rate) in Wuhan and not from the other places where case fatality ratio was much lower. Of course as a case is arbitrarily defined and depends on the extent of testing, the fatality ratio is not the correct measure.

Must more helpful, is to consider the 700 people infected on the Diamond Princess. They were mostly from a group of 1,690 passengers over 65 years old. There were 7 deaths from COVID-19 all older than 75 years of age. If you take column two of the Imperial College table (below) and multiply the numbers by 7 (700 passengers, vs. 100 in a percentage count), you would expect 7x(2.2+5.1+9.3) = 116 deaths. This seems to be rather high when the real number of deaths is 7. The aged passengers on a cruise may be healthier but they were crowded together at a population density of 250,000 per square kilometer, and ‘isolated ’with shared ventilation, common dining facilities and lack of a proper hospital.

If we reduce the Imperial College Mortality by a factor of 12 we get a more reasonable 10 on the Diamond Princess deaths (compared to the 7 observed). This changes the conclusion of the excellently reasoned David Spiegelhalter article to say that the risk of dying from COVID is equivalent to the natural risk of dying in the next MONTH and not the next YEAR.

Thus, the Western World has been encouraged by their lack of responsibility coupled with uncontrolled media and academic errors to commit suicide for an excess burden of death of one month. Surely we or someone we know can do something about this!

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Stanford Prof. of Biophysics, Cambridge PhD and DSc, 2013 Chemistry Nobel Laureate (complex system), FRS and US National Academy member, I code well for my age.