Covid – the risks.

I am fed up not going out just now.  It’s time to take stock of the risks.

The chances of catching Covid.

People who have COVID-19 can infect others from around 2 days before symptoms start, and for up to 10 days after. They can pass the infection to others, even if they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, What we really need is the number of people who will record an infection in the next two days. Now this varies from day to day due to the way cases are recorded, but if we simply take 2/7 of the last seven days we won’t be far out,

Cornwall’s cases are rising and will probably match the rest of the UK in a week or so. From worldometers this is about 9000 per million of population per week.   So 2 days with is 2500 per million, or about 1 in 400. So around 1 in 400 people are wandering about in Cornwall, unknowingly spreading the disease, and will soon feel a bit under the weather, take a test, find they have Covid, and start isolating.

Say I meet 10 people and get close enough to catch the virus if they have it. The chances are now 1 in 40 that I will meet someone with the virus. If I repeat this for 10 days then the chance now go to 1 in 4. Now these could be the same people each day!  A person could be clear on day 2 and be contagious on day 5.

So it really depends on the number of interactions I have. Of course I could be lucky and never catch it, or unlucky and catch it from the first person I meet. But I’ll have a 50% chance of catching it with 200 interactions.

If my wife catches it, I will almost certainly catch it, and vice versa.  So as a couple, we have to consider all interactions for both of us.

And if I catch Covid?

  • From the start of the Omicron spike (9th Dec) to the peak (1st Jan) there were about 2.5 million cases.
  • From the start of the rise in hospital admissions (17th Dev) to the estimated peak (4th Jan – estimated as the peak was flattened due to hospital overload) there were about 32,000 admissions.
  • From the start of the rise in deaths (26th Dec) to the peak (16th Jan) there were around 2400 deaths

So, if I catch it there is a 1 in 77 chance of me being admitted to hospital, and about a in in 1000 chance of dying from it.

Update 11th Feb

It looks like I was a bit optimistic. Latest data shows a 1 in 63 chance of being a hospital patient and if I do go into hospital, a 1 in 8 chance of not coming out alive.  This means that should I catch it there is a 1 in 525 chance of dieing from it.

Long Covid

There is little agreement in scientific on the chances of getting long Covid. It varies depending on vaccination status and probably on the Covid variant and age.

Long Covid symptoms vary from person to person, but many who experience them do not require hospital treatment.

Some studies have found 10% of people who have mild COVID-19 will go on to have long COVID, but other studies have estimated as many as 35% will.

From the ONS

    • An estimated 1.3 million people living in private households in the UK (2.0% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID (symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) infection that were not explained by something else) as of 6 December 2021.
    • ………symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 809,000 people (64% of those with self-reported long COVID), with 247,000 (20%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”.And, 64% of people with self-reported long COVID said their symptoms affected their daily activities, while 20% said it limited their daily activities “a lot”

So the ONS estimates that as of 6th December 2% of the population were reporting long Covid. As of that date, there had been 11 million reported cases of the pandemic in the UK. That is about one sixth of the population. So around 12% of those who reported a case of Covid, were still reporting Long Covid symptoms.

This is alarming. Our government (and it seems a grwing number of  other countries governments) is  now content to let the virus spread unchecked through the population so ultimately 12% of the entire population coud be suffering long Covid with over half of those having their day to day activities limited.  Only break throughs in treating or curing the disease will be able to stop this happening.

This was before the Omicron wave hit. Omicron has only been with us for 6 weeks, so there is no real data. Maybe long Covid will be less severe than the delta variant? Maybe the booster gives some protection?

Government strategy

For the last six months of 2020, the government seemed content to keep new (delta) cases at 30,000 – 40,000 per day, hospital admissions at about 750 – 1000 per day, and deaths at 100 to 150 per day. So there was a 1 in 40 chance of needing to go to hospital, and I guess I would be 1 in 20.  Then if I was unlucky and had to go to hospital, there was a 1 in 7 chance I would die.  Boris Johnson and the rest of his cabinet seemed to be quite content with this “collateral damage”.

If we assume that they would still be happy to party on with 1000 admissions a day to hospital, then that implies a new case rate of about 60,000 per day with Omicron.

If we assume that a death rate of 125 per day is acceptable then that is 1500 admissions a day and that corresponds to 90,000 new cases per day.

Update 11th Feb

Deaths are now at 180 per day and coming down. Admissions are at 1200 per day and coming down. New cases are at 63,000 per day and coming down. On 24th February all restrictions including the requirement to isolate if infected will be removed.

Bearing in mind that with current cases at around 100,000 per day, and Boris Johnson announcing the removal of all restrictions, then it really does seem that 60,000 – 90,000 cases per day are acceptable to him.

Although it is generally accepted that the booster jabs lose effectiveness after a few months, there are no plans for a second booster

The UK’s vaccine advisory panel on Friday said there was “no immediate need” for a second booster shot for elderly vulnerable groups, citing new evidence that vaccine protection against severe disease from the Omicron coronavirus variant is sustained for at least three months.

The first booster doses to the most vulnerable were given out four an a half months ago.

Where does that leave us?

So we attain our 50% chance of catching it if we have 200 interactions.  200 in a year is around  4 a week. It is impossible for us to keep interactions that low without being in permanent isolation and never going out.  Without restrictions or masks, anybody who is up-wind for a short time will be a potential infector.  This includes people in shops, including the staff, delivery drivers, and relatives and friends.

So, basically we are almost certain to catch Covid if the incidence continue as they have done in the past or get worse.  I really can’t see the end of wave after wave of different variants.

When (not if) we catch it there is a 1 in 77 chance of each of us being admitted to hospital and a 1 in 38 chance of just one of us, and a 1 in 500 chance of one of us dying. There ia also a 5 in 12 chance of us having long Covid.

Booster jabs seem to lose effectiveness after a few months. Ours were almost three months ago.

So, the best we can do is to is minimise the number of times we get it.  Realistically, we can’t get it every week, but we could get it every six months or so.

How long will this go on?  Let us take a guess at five years until they have a more effective vaccination program.  (It’s a good a guess as any).

Thanks to government strategy we really have no way of avoiding the virus other than complete isolation, and we are not going to do that. We may get multiple infections in that time.  Let’s hope it’s less than once per year, so maybe five bouts.

S0 we are left with a 1 in 15 chance of being hospitalised and 1 in 200 chance of dying, but maybe an almost even chance of getting long Covid in the next five years.