John Burn-Murdoch Profile picture
Jul 18, 2021 18 tweets 6 min read Read on X
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

May 17
NEW 🧵: how Britain became gripped by the worst homelessness crisis in the developed world Image
Here the column in full

Now let’s get into the detail:ft.com/content/24117a…
Some people have responded to that chart with "That can’t be right", or "We can’t be worse than America".

I’m afraid the chart is right. 15 years ago the UK’s record on homelessness *was* not too dissimilar to other developed countries, but things have rapidly deteriorated. Image
Read 23 tweets
May 10
NEW:

There has long been a gap between people’s views of crime locally (not a big issue) vs nationally (it’s terrible out there!), but there are signs this is now happening to economic perceptions too.

My finances? Going okay. The economy? Awful.

What’s going on? Image
My column this week asks whether the media (both mainstream and social) and its incentives to maximise engagement could be playing a key role ft.com/content/8cd76c…
With crime, it’s widely accepted that the main reason for this decoupling is media coverage.

People’s sense of crime levels is based mainly on what they see on TV and read in newspapers, and much less on what they or the people they know actually experience. Image
Read 17 tweets
Apr 12
NEW: my column this week is about the coming vibe shift, from Boomers vs Millennials to huge wealth inequality *between* Millennials.

Current discourse centres on how the average Millennial is worse-off than the average Boomer was, but the richest millennials are loaded 💸🚀 Image
That data was for the UK, but it’s a similar story in the US. The gap between the richest and poorest Millennials is far wider than it was for Boomers. More debt at the bottom, and much more wealth at the top.

In both countries, inequality is overwhelmingly *within* generations, not between them.Image
And how have the richest millennials got so rich?

Mainly this: enormous wealth transfers from their parents, typically to help with buying their first home.

In the UK, among those who get parental help, the top 10% got *£170,000* towards their house (the average Millennial got zero).Image
Read 9 tweets
Mar 11
NEW 🧵:

American politics is in the midst of a racial realignment.

I think this is simultaneously one of the most important social trends in the US today, and one of the most poorly understood. Image
Last week, an NYT poll showed Biden leading Trump by less than 10 points among non-white Americans, a group he won by almost 50 points in 2020.

Averaging all recent polls (thnx @admcrlsn), the Democrats are losing more ground with non-white voters than any other demographic. Image
People often respond to these figures with accusations of polling error, but this isn’t just one rogue result.

High quality, long-running surveys like this from Gallup have been showing a steepening decline in Black and Latino voters identifying as Democrats for several years. Image
Read 33 tweets
Feb 23
The politics of America’s housing issues in one chart:

• People and politicians in blue states say they care deeply about the housing crisis and homelessness but keep blocking housing so both get worse

• Red states simply permit loads of new homes and have no housing crisis Image
And if you were wondering where London fits into this...

It builds even less than San Francisco, and its house prices have risen even faster.

That cities like London & SF (and the people who run them) are considered progressive while overseeing these situations is ... something Image
Those charts are from my latest column, in which I argue that we need to stop talking about the housing crisis, and start talking about the planning/permitting crisis, because it’s all downstream from that ft.com/content/de34df…
Read 20 tweets
Feb 9
NEW: we often talk about an age divide in politics, with young people much less conservative than the old.

But this is much more a British phenomenon than a global one.

40% of young Americans voted Trump in 2020. But only 10% of UK under-30s support the Conservatives. Why? Image
One factor is that another narrative often framed as universal turns out to be much worse in the UK: the sense that young generations are getting screwed.

Young people are struggling to get onto the housing ladder in many countries, but the crisis is especially deep in Britain: Image
It’s a similar story for incomes, where Millennials in the UK have not made any progress on Gen X, while young Americans are soaring to record highs.

Young Brits have had a much more visceral experience of failing to make economic progress. Image
Read 31 tweets

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