Germany vs UK

To date, Germany has had 7,533 deaths. The UK has had 32,065. The difference, of a factor of over 4 is put down to many reasons by the media, but the main reason is how fast Germany reacted in the early stage of the pandemic.

Current Death Toll8,02734,4664.3 x
Peak Deaths (7 day average)2309404.1 x
First action takenMarch 13March 207 days
Deaths per day at first action8435 x
Confirmed cases at first action3,6753,9831.1 x
Peak death dateApril 20April 155 days
Date when deaths reduced to 50%May 8May 124 days
Days to 50%18279 days
Current death rate (daily average)744616.3 x
Current Growth Rate93.7%96.7% 
Current R value0.40.6 

The UK’s initial response, was only a week later than German’s. But infections were doubling every three days, so that one week’s delay accounts for the factor of 4 in peak death rate, and the current death toll.

The fact that confirmed cases in the UK were only slightly higher than Germany’s is explained by the lack of testing in the UK.

After the peak, (the pink line crossing the 100% line on the graphs below) it took Germany 2 days to get the growth rate from 100% to 98%.  The UK took 10 days. 
Germany then reached 95% in a week. The UK has yet to reach that figure.
The sheer volume of cases, 4 times that of Germany, resulted in shortages of PPE which will have slowed the reduction in infections, especially in care homes.

Currently the infection rate is reducing faster in Germany compared to the UK and the UK is coming down from a much higher number.  This increases the time to a final lockdown exit. If the UK exits lockdown at the same levels as Germany, this will result in an extra six weeks of lockdown
But the government are worried about the effect on the economy, so it is likely that we will try to exit sooner. 

Spain introduced lockdown at the same level of death rate as the UK and has suffered a similar outcome.  Italy’s national lockdown was introduced at a higher level, but the northern sector where the virus started was locked down much earlier.

The biggest factor in Germany’s better performance compared to the UK, Spain, and Italy was the introduction of the lockdown a week earlier.

After the peak, the infections did not reduce as fast in the UK and Italy compared to Germany, probably due the higher levels of cases, and consequent shortage of PPE.

The UK,  Italy, Spain and the USA are all now experiencing a similar reduction rate.

Did Germany do well? No, absolutely not. They just did better than the U.K.
Germany has had 174,975 cases, 7,928 deaths.

Some countries which have done well are:-
South Korea (10,991 cases, 260 deaths),
New Zealand (1,497 cases 21 deaths),
Greece (2,770 cases, 156 deaths), and
Israel (16,579 cases, 265 deaths)

So is the UK really bad? No, not if compared to Brazil with 15,662 deaths so far and a growth rate of 105% (estimated R value = 2) or Mexico with 5045 deaths and a growth rate of 106% (estimated R value = 2.4). Neither country is close to the peak yet.  But we are among the worst in Europe.
(The government briefings  stopped showing comparisons with other countries this week)

Tracking 17th May
As I discuss Germany above, I have added it to the graphs.  I have also added Scotland and Wales.
The UK’s figures are falling at a fairly steady 96.6%.  Scotland is slower and Wales is quicker.  This indicates that these countries were right to adopt different exit strategies.
Scotland will see their infection rate as being too high to ease the lockdown, and Wales will not want their progress wiped out by visitors from England.

Thankfully the rise in care home deaths has leveled out. This may be because hospital are not sending infected  patients back to care homes to die. The figures still fluctuate wildly, even on a 7 day rolling average, but the overall trend indicates we have just passed the peak.

(There seem to be two sets of “official” figures of care home deaths.)

The figures from Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England state:-

As of 5pm on 1 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 28,131 have sadly died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 23,701.

This would indicate 28131 – 23701 = 4430 deaths outside of hospitals.

The Office for National Statistics say:-

Since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (between the period 2 March and 1 May 2020, registered up to the 9 May 2020) there were 45,899 deaths of care home residents (wherever the death occurred); of these 12,526 involved COVID-19, which is 27.3% of all deaths of care home residents.

Of deaths involving COVID-19 among care home residents, 72.2% (9,039 deaths) occurred within a care home, and 27.5% (3,444 deaths) occurred within a hospital.

So, up to 1st May, (the latest ONS figures) we have DHSS and PHE recording 4,430 deaths and ONS recording 9,039 deaths .  The DHSS and PHE figures are used in my analyses.

The UK is will begin to allow schools back on 1st June. At current reduction rates deaths should then be around 2000 per week.  Germany started to open schools on May 4th when death rates were around 1000 per week (and they have a higher population)
Any change in death rates in Germany due to the schools would be occurring in the next week or so, so hopefully we should learn from Germany’s experience.
Germany’s testing is better than ours so they can react sooner.

The government are saying that the R rate is going up. They must be relying on test data for this. The published data for new cases does indeed seem to be falling off slower than the death rate. Now the average number of new cases since April 7th has been about 5000 per day. The average number of deaths since April 21st (14 days later due to incubation) has dropped from around 750 to 500.
Without a lot more testing there is such a high uncertainty in the new cases data that an accurate estimation of the R rate is impossible. Maybe the government is right. They will have lots more data than that which is published.

If deaths in care homes are really a lot higher than DHSS and PHE indicate, but the total death rate is correct, then the government may be using different, and lower  figures to calculate the R rate in the general community.

Personally I think they are guessing, but surely their guesswork must be getting better?