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expert reaction to today’s (Tues 24 March) new UK COVID-19 case numbers and mortalities

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have released today’s new figures, there are now 8,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK, and the number of deaths has risen by 87 to 422.


Prof Rowland Kao, Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, University of Edinburgh, said:

“Estimates of the time between succeeding generations of infection vary, but is typically in the range of 4 or 5 days. This means that a single day’s statistics only represent a fraction of the impact of a single generation of infection, and fluctuations in the day to day statistics are only to be expected – shifts up or down should not be taken as reflecting the success or failure of control now. It does show that there is no evidence yet that the epidemic in GB is slowing down. Importantly it does not reflect the impact of the most recent much more intensive measures will only be seen after considerably more time has passed – likely a week if not more.”


Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“The idea of ’record breaking’ days as seen in the media referring to the daily numbers of cases or deaths in the UK suggests this is something we don’t understand or expect but this is not the case. The nature of epidemics are a rapid rise in new cases and new deaths and these numbers are predictable and predicted. It’s very worrying but not a surprise. The first priority is to slow the rate of the increase in new cases and then to decrease the daily number of new cases.

“The over interpretation of a single day’s numbers of deaths that we saw on Saturday whereby people used the figures to claim we will be in the same situation as Italy in two weeks is not useful as the numbers are too small and there are too few data points. We use trends because we know there are margins of error in any single day. What is important to study the trend, not to live on the emotional roller coaster of daily updates.

“In both Italy and the UK, until recently, the growth in number of cases and deaths appeared to follow the same 1.3 exponential growth and this has been true almost everywhere else. The way exponentials work is that it does not much matter about sampling in testing, you see the same rate of growth unless you keep changing your sampling method.

 “The figures on the death rate in Italy,  do not necessarily prove that there has been a sudden or continuing wholesale break down of their health services. There is a tragedy in Italy and the strain on their hospitals and staff all too obvious.  The growth in the number of deaths and cases have followed a very similar pattern from the outset.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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