NEW: probably the most important Covid chart I’ve made

As Delta goes global, it’s a tale of two pandemics, as the heavily-vaccinated Western world talks of reopening while deaths across Africa and Asia soar to record highs

My story with @davidpilling ft.com/content/fa4f24… Image
Here’s another version, zooming in on the last few months.

In two well-vaccinated European countries, weeks of surging cases are reflected by only a sliver of deaths.

In eight countries where very few are vaccinated, surging cases are mirrored in surging deaths as before. Image
A grim gulf is opening up between the wealthy, mostly vaccinated world and the poorer, mostly-unprotected.

In the UK, vaccines have reduced the case-fatality rate roughly 12-fold, from ~2% to 0.16%

In Namibia, Tunisia, Malaysia and Indonesia, death rates have never been higher.
For those of us in the UK, US and Europe it’s easy to feel like the pandemic is on its way out.

But tell that to the people of Gauteng province in South Africa (home to Johannesburg and Pretoria), where the current wave has produced more deaths than any wave before. Image
And as ever, those numbers understate the true toll.

Johannesburg alone has recorded 5,635 excess deaths from natural causes in this wave, 40% more than the official total of Covid deaths for the whole province.

Jo’burg’s current death rate is worse than London’s in April 2020. Image
To be clear, the Western world is not out of the woods yet either.

In England, hospital & ICU admissions are now above the level where restrictions were introduced last year and continue to rise at the same rate as in previous waves.

Tomorrow England completes its reopening 🤔 Image
And that’s a country where 95% of people aged 65+ have been fully vaccinated.

In the US, far fewer elderly people are vaccinated, especially in certain states, and this could have a dramatic impact on how their Delta wave unfolds in terms of severe outcomes. Image
Indeed, hospital and ICU admissions are already rising faster (in some cases much faster) in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri and Nevada than they did in the winter wave last year.

That’s a marked contrast to the situation in England. Image
Here’s the same data plotted relative to the winter peak.

Florida and Missouri already have more Covid patients in ICU now than they did at the same stage of their winter wave. Other states are heading that way. Image
You may also have noted Catalonia (Spain) on those last two charts, another location where hospital and ICU admissions are following very similar paths to the pre-vaccine waves.
Essentially, a lot of places are finding out what happens when you reduce the risk of hospital admission per case (vaccines) but then multiply that ratio by a lot more cases (over-enthusiastic reopening with millions still unvaccinated).

The road ahead is anything but smooth.
It’s absolutely right that we (mostly-vaxxed countries) are having conversations about the way out of this. Endless restrictions can’t be the answer

There must be an acceptable level of risk, but what is that level? It’s not clear we’re currently below it
One option could be to follow France’s lead and further incentivise vaccination for the small proportion of people who have yet to get a jab

(story from @AnnaSophieGross ft.com/content/74ebba…) Image
Another could be to keep in place the most low-friction restrictions (e.g wearing masks in poorly ventilated indoor spaces) for an additional length of time, or during winter seasons.

Another option: requiring proof of immunity for admittance to mass indoor events.
Ploughing blithely on with reopening in the absence of any measures doesn’t have a great record so far.

The Netherlands rapidly u-turned on their reopening last month after cases rocketed. Catalonia has reintroduced a curfew. Image
In a sense, all eyes are now on England as a test case for whether "vaccinate all adults who want the jab, then reopen" is a blueprint for emerging relatively smoothly from the pandemic, or whether it’s promptly followed by another u-turn.
So there you have it.

As usual, please reply here or DM with any questions, feedback etc.

I’m hoping to dig more into the English data this week, and will keep tracking all of the metrics shown in the above charts.
(I update 20-30 Covid charts every day on the situation in the UK and abroad, but don’t usually have time to tweet them these days. If in future there’s a particular chart of mine here that you want to see an updated version of, let me know and I’ll do my best to provide it.)

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More from @jburnmurdoch

27 Jul
There’s a wild story about the women’s gymnastics at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, which I think is very relevant to what we’re hearing about Simone Biles, and the wider point of how the top level of elite sport is just as much mental as it is physical.
In the women’s all-round final in 2000, the organisers set the vault at the wrong height. Two inches too low. This was a pretty huge deal.

For competitors who have done thousands, maybe tens of thousands of vaults at a specific height, a two inch difference is night and day.
In the first round, 17 of 36 finalists fumbled the vault

One landed on her back. Clear gold-medal favourite, Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina (comfortably won qualifying) landed on her knees.

Total chaos, and nobody knew why. Athletes second-guessing themselves.
Read 13 tweets
27 Jul
Correcting an important misconception (this is my chart, but misleading commentary):
•There were thousands more cases among young men than women after ⚽️ matches, showing impact of Euros on transmission
•But not due to attending matches. It was indoor gatherings to watch games
Of course, that still means the transmission bump was driven by the football, but match attendance is only a small part of the cause. The bulk is mixing in pubs, bars, homes etc, plus some from crowded transport to and from those indoor gatherings (and matches).
Thoughts on implications:
• I would guess these watch parties happen at a much larger scale for England games at major tournaments than they do for typical club games, but we've not had pubs fully open during the season yet so that will be worth monitoring.
Read 5 tweets
25 Jul
I feel like I've seen this before somewhere 🧐🤔
Lol that they couldn't even be bothered to change a single one of the numbers.
Read 4 tweets
24 Jul
NEW: people worry when they hear "40% of hospitalisations are fully vaxxed", but this chart shows that's actually good news.

The more people you vaccinate, the higher their share of hospitalisations, but the *total* number in hospital is a fraction of what it would otherwise be
If fewer people are fully vaccinated, a smaller share of hospitalisations will be fully-vaxxed too, but this is not a good thing:

Overall there will be a lot more people in hospital because far more of the population is unprotected.
In other words: if you want to know whether the vaccination program is working, don't focus on whether the fully vaxxed make up 40% or 12% of hospitalisations.

Focus on whether the hospitalisation rate is 270 per million or 684 per million.
Read 10 tweets
16 Jun
A huge thanks to everyone at the FT who made this possible. Both the rest of the brilliant data/visuals team, and the editors and reporters across the rest of the FT who really *get* the power of data journalism more than any other newsroom I've encountered.
We're not in the business of making charts to dress-up stories. We make charts that *are* the stories.
Read 10 tweets
15 Jun
Another excellent chart idea from @BristOliver

Just as in previous waves, cases today are an excellent guide to where hospital admissions will be 10 days into the future.

But there is a difference this time around, and here come two charts to illustrate it...
Here’s the same data, but adding the autumn/winter wave, and expressing everything as % of January peak

Spot the difference between waves:

Admissions track cases ~perfectly both times, but this time red admissions line is lower: a smaller share of cases require hospital (💉💪)
And here’s the same data using another @BristOliver concept: admissions as share of cases 10 days earlier.

Today admissions are ~4% of lagged cases. At this point in the autumn wave, they were ~8%.
Read 5 tweets

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