- Sense of proportion -

:: Posted :: 2020-03

It's important in the face of fears about the spread of the Covid-19 virus to get an idea of how it features on the scale of mortal threats.

Of course, it's potentially very tragic when people are dying from an infection for which we have no reliable treatment, and it's worrying to think that one might become a 'statistic' oneself. Certainly the media are doing an excellent job of whipping up world-wide anxiety. However, my view is we need to get a grip or we risk over-reacting.

According to the Department of Transport's Reported road casualties in Great Britain: 2018 annual report' in recent time GB road fatalities have run at 1780 a year, 33 per week. This equates UK-wide to over 35 deaths every week. A little over half of those who die are pedestrians, cyclists and motor-cyclists. Funnily enough, though, I'm not hearing much talk about banning motor cars or keeping pedestrians and cyclists locked up at home to ensure they aren't killed in such quantities. Apparently we regard three dozen deaths a week as just fine in the context of road transport.

From Public Health England's report, Surveillance of influenza and other respiratory viruses in the UK - Winter 2018-2019, p. 51, we learn that between 2014/15 & 2017/18 English deaths associated with influenza averaged 21,155 annually. This equates to 25,000 a year UK-wide. [The good news for the young is that 95% of these fatalities were aged 65 or over].

If these figures were spread evenly throughout the year (they are of course bunched into the winter months) that would equate to 480 fatalities a week. So road accidents and boring old vanilla 'flu account on average for some 500 UK deaths a week.

I repeat, any death is potentially tragic. However, when at the time of writing the number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK is still in single digits, we might want to hold on to our flat-out panic for just a little while longer.

It's always possible Covid-19 will indeed wipe my generation off the face of the Earth, but the good news for the under-65s is there are plenty of them to keep the human race in business for a while yet. And should I become a statistic myself, I freely licence you to say, 'I told you so.' Just don't expect much of a response ;o)

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