Coronavirus death rate could be as high as 20 percent – Lancet report finds

The re-estimation of the mortality rate in the report considered the time-delay between infection and onset of symptoms, then the “two to eight week” time delay between onset of symptoms and actual death. They found the greater the increase of time between infection and death showed a much greater increase in the death rate. The report read: “A recent time-delay adjusted estimation indicates that the mortality rate of COVID-19 could be as high as 20 percent in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.”

The current official death rate figure is 4.7 percent.

This is still high when compared with a death rate of around 0.1 percent for seasonal flu and 0.2 percent for pneumonia in high-income countries.

However, 4.7 percent is being disputed, both by governments seeking to calibrate their policy response and for citizens trying to gauge how much they should worry.

The proportion of people who have died from the disease varies strikingly from country to country.

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Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme, has outlined four factors that might contribute to the differing mortality rates being touted in different regions.

He states the following could be factors, such as who becomes infected, what stage the epidemic has reached in a country, how much testing a country is doing, and how well different healthcare systems are coping.

Arguably the biggest unknown about coronavirus is the true number of people worldwide who have contracted the virus.

With claims that China is hiding data and general testing being reduced in many countries, without that information no accurate death rate can be calculated.

Many infected people will display either mild or no symptoms, and will remain absent from the data unless they are tested.

Since resources are limited and different countries are testing to different extents, the size of the information gap varies from place to place.

John Ioannidis, a professor of epidemiology at Stanford University, has branded the data we have about the epidemic “utterly unreliable”.

Speaking to the Financial Times he said: “We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300″.


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If thousands more people are surviving than we know about, then current mortality rate estimates are too high, perhaps by a large margin.

In the UK, where the Government has been criticised for a slow initial response, only the most serious cases are being tested, which reduces the reliability of data.

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