Quick(!) stats update (UK):
So the virus is still with us and we are trying to hold daily fatalities under 1000 again, like in April/May. So it's proving to be the sad, long and difficult winter we thought.
Great article from Full-Fact here. Thanks Roger and Gordon.
I challenged Ivor Cummins' complacency on this back in summer on FB, in response to a covid Q from a friend. His analysis and bias does not stand up and I think he has a commercial agenda to defend, to the point of lack of objectivity. Dangerous. Had we taken his 'advice' we can see from recent events that the NHS would have been overrun in April/May, increasing the death rate hugely and exacerbating social cohesion problems significantly.
If a Full-Fact-compliant simple analysis exists I think it is:
Exponentials x time lags - temperature/sun - firebreaks = infections x mortality rate = deaths.
I make no account for herd immunity in this equation as we are either a) two years away from that as many people are careful and slow the spread a bit, or b) we could accelerate herd immunity only by throwing hundreds of thousands of our 15m older and more vulnerable people to the lion of covid at a point when vaccines are just around the corner. And herd immunity does not mean people don't continue to die. Vaccine will accelerate this date, hopefully, without the lion's roar being so bad.
And I make no account of the massive disparity in personal risk for age/condition. If the population was all under 60 and well, we would take no economic restrictions at all as it's nasty for some and some various Long Covid, but mortality rate v v low. But sadly we have been unable as a society to protect this older section (15m at 2%+ risk) from younger, infected, safer people without lockdowns on all adults to reduce the likelihood of spread. Currently deaths are back in the hundreds per day and without distanced behaviour it would be thousands.
Ivor Cummins' initial point about early herd immunity was always a hoped-for guess made with seductive confidence and now proven false with 20-30k new cases per day currently. Hitchens' point about 23 March lockdown and fatality peak 'too soon' afterwards (supposedly proving deaths not related to lockdown) ignores the prognosis variations and also the efforts people made after initial severe warnings before laws were introduced that bent the spike over earlier a bit. And covid dislikes higher temperatures and especially UV light as spring opened up.
It's true Government don't put out true trends all the time for political reasons, and to justify themselves, but I think we can see between the lines OK.
In one respect Hitchens may have a point about other factors than lockdown reducing R. If (only if) temperature and UV light have a larger positive effect on killing covid than as a nation we tested in May (as I suspect - look at more Equatorial countries' results, and UK low hospitalisations in July/Aug well after lockdown ends) then the first lockdown of 2020 may in hindsight have gone on unnecessarily long and pushed the inevitable second wave back in time dangerously far into this winter - now - when it is most deadly and disruptive. But to be fair, hindsight is 20/20 and at the time we didn't know how long or short to make the leash, on this exponential/time-lagged major problem.
So Chancellor Rishi Sunak has made his decisions on the economy with furlough etc til 30 April, borrowing yet another £120bn+ (a further 5% of GDP - eek!) to do so. This fits with our thinking - that the pandemic is a huge problem through the rest of winter but sufficiently under control by 1 May to open up the economy again permanently. Sun, warmth, and enough vaccines before the sun goes down next autumn enable this. With a small risk the vaccines don't work or have issues to sort out and be delayed.
So that's our temperature-laden forecast!
So roll on the spring, sun and May 2021.
Happy New Year - I hope at some point for you.