John Church: Calculating Numbers of Covid-19 Infections

This is an article by John Church. John is an oil and gas professional and has spent some 30 years working for one of the biggest oil companies in the world.

There is a lot of consternation right now about the increased restrictions related to limiting gatherings to six people or less. This has come about due to a focus on positive case numbers. Not hospitalisations or deaths, but just positive test results. But how worried should we really be about the increase in cases ? How many people actually have had the virus in this country and when did they have it ? And where might this go from here ? If this is the so called deadly second wave, what does the wave look like compared to the first ?

In the early stages of the epidemic almost all the tests were being done on people presenting at hospital, some of whom subsequently died. Now there are relatively few presenting at hospital with very few deaths, and almost all the positive test cases are out in test centres where people go who think they may have become infected. To work out how many people might have or have had the virus, I would propose to use different methodologies for the two ‘waves’.

Infections up to the end of June

In April I submitted a couple of posts regarding Infection Fatality Rate (here and here), which calculated the UK IFR at around 0.5%. The range globally, based on differing demographcs in various countries is about 0.1% -0.7%. The younger the population, the lower the average IFR. Globally the average is ~ 0.2% Around 40,000 people had died in the UK of (or with Covid-19), up to the end of June. If we exclude the one-third who died in care homes as they are a very specific age concentrated population, the approximate number of UK community deaths would be around 25,000. With the assumption that the UK IFR is indeed ~ 0.5%, this equates to a total number of UK infections of around five million. This is how many people were infected with Covid-19 up to the end of June.

Infections from early July onwards

Based on the number of actual infections as measured by tests from July onwards, there have been approximately 70,000. This is likely an underestimate as it is reported that 80% of infections are asymptomatic, so unlikely being picked up in test centres. A very simple mathematical approach would then use the assumption that all people who show symptoms are recorded, whereas none who are asymptomatic get tested, leads to a view that since early July we should have a total number of infections of about 350,000.

What does this mean ?

Well, observationally it means we have a lot less people infected now than we did earlier, by a factor of about fifteen. Not very many. In June I submitted a post (based on observations) on why population immunity seemed to kick in at around 20% infection levels. This has been widely discussed over the last few weeks related to prior T cell immunity in large percentages of any population. But it gives us a handle on how far we might need to go before Covid-19 ceases to be a problem in the UK. If the 20% number is true, it means we would need to have around 12 million people infected before the disease truly goes away. So far, based on the above we might expect to have already have 5.35 million infections. So we might still have 6 or 7 million to go. It’s not rocket science to work out that we will get to population immunity more quickly at higher infection rates. A measured infection rate of 2000 a day (10000/day total assuming 80% asymptomatic) gets us there in 2 years. If we panic every time the measured infection rate goes above one or two thousand per day, it’s going to be a very long couple of years. However, if we let that increase tenfold it would be ~2 months. That’s a much shorter time for elderly and at risk people to remain cautious and isolated. Maybe we need to get over the mental hurdle that we want to suppress infections by limiting social interaction and periodically locking us all up, and actually let society deal with this the traditional way. By letting it spread, especially via our youth, and accepting it as part of life. Kind of like the way they did it in Sweden.

Update: Hector writes: With different figures in there we get different results. For example, suppose the IFR is more like 0.1%, as I suspect it really is. On the other hand, suppose that Covid deaths have been over-counted (as I suspect), and only 15,000 people have died in the community. That means that around 15 million have already had it, which means we may be at herd immunity already. Doom merchants, on the other hand, may say 1% IFR x 25,000 deaths = 2.5 million infected so far, and they’ll claim that herd immunity is much higher than 12 million. They may say it’s 60% of the population, which is 40 million. So they’re going to think herd immunity is impossible, although that doesn’t preclude us just living with it. That’s better than the insane zero-covid strategy.

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17 thoughts on “John Church: Calculating Numbers of Covid-19 Infections

  1. I try very hard to think that all the scientists and statisticians surrounding the idiot politicians are just exhibiting group think, and that is the reason that logic has gone and ‘doing a Sweden’ isn’t followed. So instead we get this endless attempt to stop a virus from spreading and getting to herd immunity as fast as possible.
    Maybe. But then I think how this all plays into the hands of the vaccinators, and I suspect a malignant force at work.
    So the ‘persuaders’ keep at work with the fear mongering, stupid restrictions keep being introduced, and we wait for the cavalry to ride in with the magic potent.
    Does this rank as one of the most heinous crimes against humanity, ever?

  2. This might be a good place to ask this question.

    We are told that the R number (reproductive rate) is increasing

    Will the R rate increase with more testing?

  3. NeverReady: “Will the R rate increase with more testing?”

    Surely the answer is yes, especially now that hospitalisations are so low.

  4. The increased testing leads to some interesting scenarios. If Boris gets his wish and manages to implement 10 million tests a day, with a 1% false positive rate we might be ‘measuring’ 100,000 new infections a day, even if Covid19 was actually totally absent. It leads to the obvious question – how would we ever be free of this ? A very dystopian picture.

  5. @Dene @John

    That’s what I thought.

    If we test 10 million people a day and so therefore could be measuring 100,000 new infections per day, then surely we would be all done within a week and we can go back to normal 🙂

  6. The question is why the govt wants to conduct 10m tests a day. Somebody advising them must know about the false positive issue, and with the epidemic effectively over the money could be spent on something more vital. Does Matt Cock or Bozo Johnson not understand the concept of opportunity cost?!

    There’s something perversely psychological, or is that psychotic, going on in govt which has nothing to do with the risk of Covid. The pandemic was a problem but only govt action has ensured it’s resulted in a disaster. Not just here but around the world.

  7. John, very interesting. Thanks

    …it gives us a handle on how far we might need to go before Covid-19 ceases to be a problem in the UK

    Related great article by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick

    A way to control COVID-19 (for now)

    In the flu pandemic at the end of World War One, the average age of death was twenty-eight. In the UK, the average age of death from COVID19 is eighty-one for men, and eighty-four for women. Which is older than the average life expectancy in parts of the UK. These data are from the Office of National Statistics

    The risk of dying if you get infected and have serious symptoms, requiring some medical actions – the case fatality rate (CFR*) – also rises exponentially as you get older. In Italy, in the early stages of the pandemic, the CFR for those under twenty-nine was zero per cent. Rising to twenty per cent in those over eighty

    COVID19 also targets those with significant underlying medical conditions. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, found that ninety-four per cent of patients who died from COVID19 had other ‘health conditions and contributing causes.’

    The risk appears to be lower than for influenza. In children, and those under forty, the risk is almost non-existent

    I would ask people to turn their thinking around on COVID19. We have it within our power, right now, to get rid of COVID19 by the end of the year. What we need to do right now – before winter comes – is to encourage everyone who is fit and well and under the age of seventy (slightly arbitrary figure) to take the masks off, get together and spread this virus far and wide….

    Worth reading in full

  8. @Hector writes:
    Agree. My calculations over many weeks have given similar

    “may be at herd immunity already” – I’d say “do have herd immunity already” since July, the most significant from almost everyone having had Coronavirus infections before

    Use of “Novel” instead of “another” or “new” was a factor in the scare mongering

    Perspective and nomenclature

    Defn. of Pandemic – an epidemic which has spread through countries and continents

    Defn. of Epidemic – a transmittable infection which causes significant number of deaths or disability

    After 10 months Covid-19 has been a factor in death of insignificant 0.05% of population (5 in 10,000) – not an epidemic or pandemic

    After 10 months Covid-19 has been sole cause of death of insignificant 0.002% of population (2 in 100,000) – not an epidemic or pandemic

    Nothing to worry about and never has been

  9. There is surely no more vacuous proposal that has ever been put before the public than spending £100bn on proving that they aren’t ill with the virus. Perhaps next week we’ll do the same by testing for say TB, and cholera the week after.

  10. @JimW
    The biggest crime has been banning use of HCQ
    The jury is in on Hydroxychloroquine – ‘it saves lives’

    @NeverReady, John
    Testing and R rate

    “James Ferguson, who runs a financial research company called the Macrostrategy Partnership, has produced a research paper on the FPR (False Positive Rate) of the PCR test in which he explains why the PCR test is a poor diagnostic tool when the prevalence of COVID-19 in the general population is so low. (The lower the prevalence, the more likely it is that a positive result is a false positive)

    The high amplification of PCR tests requires them to be subject to black box software algorithms, which the numbers suggest are preset at a 2% positive rate. If so, we will never get ‘cases’ down

    James has kindly given me permission to republish this research, usually only available to his paying clients. This is a masterly skewering of the current nonsense about cases rising “exponentially”, exposing the poor maths and misunderstood science underpinning the second wave hysteria…”


    There’s something perversely psychotic going on in govt which has nothing to do with the risk of Covid

    Green Agenda?

    Agree. A £100 Billion Pissing contest using extorted other peoples money

  11. Thanks Pcar
    I completely agree with Malcolm Kendricks view. The great fallacy we have all been living under over the last 6 months was that the the best way of getting rid of the virus and protecting vulnerable people was to try and stop it spreading. That was (and still is) a terribly flawed strategy. The mystery to me, and something I have raised with Dr. Kendrick, is why it has taken 6 months for even just a few people in the medical disciplines to state it, when the data showed it was obvious back in March and April.

  12. Pcar: “Green Agenda?”

    I wonder if it’s more that the people who get into positions of power have some psychopathic traits and they’ve been unable to deal with the fear of Covid in a sensible way. The fear perhaps being for their own political careers more than anything else. The way govts have dealt with the pandemic is far more disturbing than the pandemic itself.

  13. @John
    The insanity all around world seems to be due to Prof Neil “Always Wrong” Ferguson’s model our feeble politicians worship. Until he appeared we were correctly going for herd immunity

    Be interesting to hear what Dr. Kendrick says about his colleagues

    My feeling is it’s political – too many illiberal Left middle-class touchy-feely do-gooder control-freak bed-wetters in Gov, msm, public sector…

    Political is clearest in HCQ and herd immunity

    There’s also the propensity in this cohort to virtue signal epitomised by Hancock’s “Don’t kill granny” – but doesn’t matter how many die unreported

    Agree. MPs wanting to keep their cushy well paid jobs. Granny dying = bad, 10 dying from various is OK. Problem is Granny’s life is now miserable solitude

  14. Pcar: “There’s also the propensity in this cohort to virtue signal epitomised by Hancock’s “Don’t kill granny” – but doesn’t matter how many die unreported”

    Given that the NHS flooded care homes with patients who may have had Covid, Hancock has an effin cheek complaining about others killing grannies. He’s like Cuomo in New York who said something along the lines that his mother isn’t expendable but then did a similar with care homes.

  15. It should be clear now that we are in an experiment. Here is Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, calling for “climate lockdowns”, noting that the public have been amazingly compliant during the virus lockdowns.

    He obviously knew his host, Nancy Pelosi would agree. Likewise most EU politicians. This is no longer conspiracy theory, but open reported fact.

  16. @IDAU
    Lindsay Hoyle fully signed up to UN and WHO agenda I mentioned.
    It’s disgusting

    Gove* too – the only supporter of Hancock’s 6

    Michael Gove persuaded Boris Johnson to bring in ‘rule of six’” – [And they both claim to be a liberals]
    Mr Gove was one of only two Cabinet ministers to call for new curb on social gatherings earlier this week

    Others – including Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary – suggested the number should be at least eight…”

    Ah, so not quite what headline says, others wanted more heavy handed totalitarianism too. Will Priti be jailing all illegals on boats with 8 or more?

    “…One source said: “Whitty and Vallance were in favour of six as the number, but they didn’t set out any rigorous scientific analysis of why. It wasn’t clear what the scientific basis was for the number six.

    “Michael Gove and Matt Hancock argued that it would be simpler for the public to understand six…”

    Not following science then, following guesses and wants

  17. Important

    If you haven’t responded to this Government consultation on the roll out of a Covid vaccine, you probably should, particularly if you’re a scientist. It begins: “COVID-19 is the biggest threat this country has faced in peacetime history…” and it’s all downhill from there.

    To give you a taste of what it is the Government is “consulting” about doing, read the section on liability.

    The deadline for responding is September 18th

    I’m all in favour of self/parental administration of Flu vaccine, done it since 1989. Health “profession” against to preserve their image, jobs and ‘magic’

    Page 5
    New regulation 247A

    14.After regulation 247 (exemption for supply in the event or in anticipation of pandemic disease) insert

    “Protocols relating to coronavirus and influenza vaccinations and immunisations

    (1) Regulations 214, 220 and 221 do not apply to the supply or administration of a medicinal product

    (a) for parenteral administration; and
    (b) used for vaccination or immunisation against coronavirus or influenza virus (of any type)

    Yes, yes, yes

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