COVID-19 in the UK #2

The chart above (click to zoom) is an updated view of registered deaths in England and Wales according to the ONS up to 26 June. The difference between the red and black lines (highlighted in yellow) indicates deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The red line shows that a spike in non-COVID-19 deaths also took place.

Sombre news, but the COVID-19 peak seems to have passed.

Edit 1: Updated chart for more recent data.

Edit 2: The Telegraph is expressing concern at the spike in non-COVID-19 deaths, which seems to reflect under-treatment of cancer and other serious diseases during the lockdown.

COVID-19 in the UK

The chart above (click to zoom) shows registered deaths in the UK according to the ONS up to 10 April (note that during holiday periods, some deaths may be “carried over” to the next week). The year 2020 is on the way to passing 2018 as the worst year of recent times, with the fortnight to 10 April being particularly bad.

The difference between the red and black lines (highlighted in yellow) indicates deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate (this includes deaths “with” as well as “from” COVID-19, although other data suggests that in most cases COVID-19 would be the actual cause of death). A clear COVID-19 spike is visible.

The jump in the red line is also disturbing, however. The the red line shows deaths excluding deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The jump in the red line may indicate:

  • COVID-19 deaths where no test was done (unlikely, because the records show only a slight increase in deaths by non-COVID respiratory illness); or
  • deaths from other causes exacerbated by lack of hospital beds; or
  • deaths due to the current lockdown itself (e.g. suicides).

At present, I have no way of deciding which of those three options are the correct ones. Hopefully both COVID-19 and those other factors will pass soon (the IHME model suggests that COVID-19 deaths in the UK reached their peak on 21 April).

I should note that CNBC has also looked at this dataset, but they’ve compared this year against an average period that excludes 2018 and 2019. I don’t know why they did that.

Visualising COVID-19 risk

A friend suggested this to me as a way of visualising COVID-19 risk for the United States. The red bars in the chart above show the expected death rates for different age groups over the whole pandemic period up to August 2020 (combining the projected total deaths from IHME with the age breakdown from CDC). For comparison, the blue bars show the expected deaths from other causes over an ordinary 9-day period (using data from CDC). For every age group, the risk of dying from COVID-19 during the pandemic is less than 9 days worth of ordinary risk, because 7,700 people die in the United States on an average day (of course, the COVID-19 risk would be somewhat higher without current social distancing measures).

For children and young people aged 0–24, the risk is less than 1 day worth of ordinary risk. This is clearer if we re-plot the chart on a logarithmic scale:

Update: I have updated the charts above to match the new IHME projections dated 16 April.

COVID-19 projections

This web site has been making COVID-19 projections for the US that seem to be tracking reality fairly well. They are predicting that 0.018% of the US will die. Comparing with this list, that is about 8% more than are normally killed during a year by ordinary influenza or pneumonia.

The apparent high death rate in other countries seems to be due to a combination of poor-quality health care and inflated statistics resulting from under-testing the population. In a few weeks, we will see how accurate the US projections are (the Wyoming predictions seem dubious to me).

Below, from the same projections, are predicted ICU bed demands in excess of state capacity (click to zoom). It can be seen that there is a particular problem in the northeast.

Update: I have updated the charts to match the new IHME projections dated 16 April, and added expected death rates for each state (below, click to zoom):

The expected death rates for each state seem to have no relationship to the number of control interventions implemented by state governments. Clearly other factors are decisive:

The Porsche Taycan

IEEE Spectrum has released its Top 10 Tech Cars issue. The most fun car listed is the Porsche Taycan electric vehicle (photos above by Alexander Migl: 1; 2 – click to zoom).

The Taycan uses the 800-volt architecture of the 919, which allows for fast charging and a slight weight reduction. The drag coefficient Cd is in the range 0.22 to 0.25. With 460 kW of power for the Turbo S model, this allows top speeds of 268 km/h or so. There are electric motors on both front and rear axles, four-wheel-steering, and air suspension. You pay for it, though.

Oh, and there are no solar panels.

Coronavirus diary #1

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is changing the world. Ridiculous and selfish panic-buying is stripping supermarket shelves, in Australia as elsewhere. Everyone I know is catching up on their reading, and people are being persuaded to practice social distancing and to wash their hands.

It seems to me that if you’re under 50 and healthy, there is absolutely no need to panic. But it’s really important not to pass on the disease, if and when you catch it, to other people. Listen to your local medical advice, people!

Virus photo from NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories; supermarket photo by Christopher Corneschi, 9 March 2020; painting by Marguerite Gérard; hand-washing photo by Michelle Gigante/USAF.

The spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus

Above is a chart of worldwide cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease (data from here, skipping the first few days). The apparent spike in cases on February 12 is due to a change in how cases are diagnosed and reported.

There does not seem to be the exponential growth in cases that one would expect (see the badly-fitting blue curve), except at first. In fact, allowing for the “false spike,” growth seems to be almost linear (see the dashed purple line). This would probably be due to under-counting (the Chinese medical system can only diagnose a certain number of cases each day), although it offers some hope that quarantine measures may be working. Let us pray that they continue to work.

Quantum supremacy – or not?

Google recently published a paper in Nature entitled “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor.” They claim to have used 53 qubits to solve a task that would take about 10,000 years on a classical supercomputer.

Some caution seems necessary in interpreting this claim, however. First, it does not refer to any of the practical tasks that people would like quantum computers to solve. And second, IBM claims that 2.5 days is a more realistic estimate for the time required on a classical supercomputer. It does seem that “quantum supremacy” is not quite here yet (see also what Scott Aaronson has to say).

Photo: IBM 50-qubit quantum computer (credit: Ian Hughes, 2018)

And returning him safely to the earth

In 1961, John F. Kennedy told Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

The Moon landing on 20 July 1969 achieved the first part of that goal. The second part was yet to come (in 1970, that would prove to be the hard part).

But on 21 July 1969, at 17:54 UTC, the spacecraft Eagle lifted its metaphorical wings and took off from the Moon (well, the upper ascent stage took off, as shown in the photograph below). There followed a rendezvous with Columbia, a flight back to Earth, and an eventual splashdown on 24 July. Mission accomplished.