Imperial and Oxford Coronavirus Epidemiological Models

Some people think that the coronavirus has been in circulation for months. Sun:

…a study by researchers at the University of Oxford claimed up to 50 per cent of the UK population may have already contracted the coronavirus.

It suggests the disease may have already been prevalent in the UK up to two months before the first case was officially diagnosed.

Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, led the study and says the UK must now increase testing to discover the true stage of the pandemic.

“We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys – antibody testing – to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,’” he told the Financial Times.

However, the research presents a very different view of the epidemic to the modelling at Imperial College London, which has strongly influenced government policy.

The Imperial College view seems to be the current global scientific consensus view, that Covid-19 started in Wuhan, China back in December 2019, and has since developed into a global pandemic.

New York Mag

Because testing regimens across the world have varied tremendously, the actual mortality and hospitalization rates of COVID-19 have been hard to pin down. But modeling by researchers at the University of Oxford could provide some welcome good news, even if the initial takeaway doesn’t seem so promising. According to a team from Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease lab, half of the population of the United Kingdom may have already been infected with the coronavirus. If this modeling is confirmed in follow-up studies, that would mean that fewer than .01 percent of those infected require hospital treatment, with a majority showing very minor symptoms, or none at all.

According to the modeling, the coronavirus arrived in mid-January at the latest, and spread undetected for over a month before the first cases were confirmed. Based on a susceptibility-infected-recovery model — a commonly used estimate in epidemiology — with data from case and death reports in the U.K. and Italy, the researchers determined that the initial “herd immunity” strategy of the U.K. government could have been sound. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” said lead researcher Sunetra Gupta, referring to an academic report predicting that up to 250,000 could be killed if the government maintained its plan to suppress the virus “but not get rid of it completely,” as the country’s chief scientific adviser put it. As of Monday, 87 people in the United Kingdom had died from the coronavirus; out of a total of 90,436 tests, 8,077 were positive.

To see if their math checks out, the Oxford team is now working with researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent to begin antibody testing as soon as this week. “We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys — antibody testing — to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,” Gupta told the Financial Times.

I wonder if this is going to turn into yet another scientific dispute – Imperial versus Oxford – just like global warming alarmism versus denialism?

If the Oxford view prevails – that this virus has been around for a lot longer than thought – ,then maybe the virus didn’t start in Wuhan? Maybe it’s not a China virus at all?

And maybe we’re not at the beginning of a pandemic, but at the end of one?

And if half the UK population has already caught the virus, then there’s a 50 – 50 chance that I’ve got it too.

Symptoms of Covid-19 are shortness of breath, cough, and fever.

And I’ve been short of breath, in one degree or other, since 17 January 2020, when it came on very suddenly. I’ve also got a persistent mild cough. But no fever that I’ve noticed. So I’ve got two of the three symptoms.

I thought it highly unlikely that mine was a case of Covid-19, if – the Imperial view – the new coronavirus hadn’t arrived in the OK by 17 January. But if it had already been around in the UK for months – the Oxford view -, it’s far more plausible that I could have picked it up.

But after 2 months, I still haven’t recovered. I get short of breath after doing more or less anything physical, including walking across a room. It’s why I stopped shopping at supermarkets and started getting groceries delivered.

Anyway Prince Charles has got it too.

About Frank Davis

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17 Responses to Imperial and Oxford Coronavirus Epidemiological Models

  1. Twisted Root says:

    There appears to be a disproportionately high number of well known people who are infected. The sort of people who would have the resources to gain access to routine testing. Large scale tests would probably show a similar proportion in the general population. I lean towards the Oxford model. If it is shown to be true then what we have is what we used to call ‘a bug going around’.

  2. Igrowmyown says:

    Very interesting Frank, for a few weeks now I have thought that my wife and I both had the infection at the end of November. We both had all the symptoms including a non stop cough ( the worst one of my life, I didn’t sleep for 3 nights) it lasted about 10 days and then returned at Christmas. It was when I saw a report on here I believe, that China first recorded the coronovirus in mid November (how long had it been circulating, not just in China but around the world before then) that made me think that it had been infecting people at least 2 months before China reported this novel infection.

    • Rose says:

      “Dr Li, an ophthalmologist, posted his story on Weibo from a hospital bed a month after sending out his initial warning.
      He had noticed seven cases of a virus that he thought looked like Sars – the virus that led to a global epidemic in 2003.
      On 30 December he sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection.

      Four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter.
      In the letter he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”. Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li.

      In his Weibo post he describes how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in hospital. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus on 30 January.”

      It does sound like it could have been around a while.

  3. slugbop007 says:

    I, too, have had some shortness of breath and a lingering, mild cough but this has been going on for about the last ten days. Every time I step outside it gets a little stronger and eventually subsides when I get home, indoors. Pollution falling to the ground? I recently measured the grill across the street that filters out the carbon monoxide from inside the underground garage and noticed that the noise level has gone up 7dB to a constant 97dB. That’s getting close to outdoor Rock Concert levels. I measured the noise level from my balcony, around 100 feet away, and it too is now 7dB higher at around 77dB. I used to eat my breakfast there, watch the seagulls fly overhead, smoke, read a book, catch the Sun’s rays, etc. No more, I am now surrounded by urban noise polluton, one of the worst viruses that exists in contemporary society.

    Interesting that Prince Charles exhibits mild symptoms but Camilla shows none at all. I thought this was a 100% communicable disease, like secondhand smoke? Eh, Charles?

  4. Rose says:

    “And I’ve been short of breath, in one degree or other, since 17 January 2020, when it came on very suddenly.”

    A close friend of mine was saying something similar a couple of weeks ago, but she felt very ill with it and couldn’t get out of bed.

    When I was reading a list of symptoms I realised that I’d had most of them in the last month or so, with a slight shortness of breath but without the fever. I had a soreish throat though, hence the crystalized ginger, but as all sorts of things happen to you in winter, I hadn’t given it a thought.

    I think the Oxford study is very possible, we didn’t get the rush of official cases until the skiers started coming back from half term holiday.

  5. Ryan S says:

    Sometime within the last couple months, I had a wicked bad cold (so I’m assuming) that lasted for a couple of weeks. I coughed like a sumbitch a few nights of it. I chalked a lot up to allergies (it’s been wild weather swings in NY state this year) and it wasn’t all too long after a bout of the stomach bug that tore through the house. Then my wife got really ill. She had aches, cough, feverish and it went on for slightly over a week. She went to the docs and tested negative for flu. This before they had a “something” to test for and name. So I’m really curious as to whether or not we all (including my 2 chicklets as I call them) May have had it. But then I don’t recall having fever.

  6. beobrigitte says:

    Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, led the study and says the UK must now increase testing to discover the true stage of the pandemic.
    Theoretical epidemiology? Soooooo, THEORETICALLY 50 % of the UK’s population have the theoretical antibody?
    Practically this %-age of 1 million of the UK’s population HAS the antibody:
    (Total cases/1 million population) x100
    = (121/1000000)x100 = 0.021%

    “We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys – antibody testing – to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,’” he told the Financial Times.
    Now he s talking. UK, get to work to avoid churches filling with “the flu” dead’s coffins and crematoriums working 24/7 like in Italy and bodies being stored in an ice rink (Madrid).

    it’s far more plausible that I could have picked it up.
    But after 2 months, I still haven’t recovered. I get short of breath after doing more or less anything physical, including walking across a room.

    There now is help at hand:
    Thousands of 15-minute home tests for coronavirus will be delivered by Amazon to people self-isolating with symptoms or will go on sale on high street within days, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality, writes the Guardian’s health editor Sarah Boseley.
    (Bold my emphasis)

  7. slugbop007 says:

    “Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice.


  8. John Raynor says:

    Two of my elderly neighbours had terrible flu-ey/chest infections a couple of months back. One lasted a month, the other two weeks. The former thought she’d have to go into hospital. She was housebound with it, relying on her daughter to get her food.

    So I also think it’s been around longer than we thought.

  9. smokingscot says:

    Read several articles quoting doctors in North Italy who had come across a very different kind of virus there way back in November 2019. Seems they treated it same as a bad case of flu, with some having a couple of crappy days, some needing nebulisers at home. A few needed hospital care and, as expected, some of the aged passed on.

    It was pretty normal at that time, so hospitals could cope. What they didn’t know is just how efficient it is at infecting others.

    Read somewhere that ground zero may be a person who stayed at a ski resort.

    Certainly it is mutating and they’ve found yet another strain in China – reported today.

    There is another theory – that I repeat with some belief – and that is all the signals coming from satellite as well – perhaps more credibly – from 5g mobile signals that could be messing up little things at a cellular level.

    And I do question Musk’s intent to ring the planet with his satellites.

  10. slugbop007 says:

    To smokingscot:

    If, according to Leibniz ‘this world is the best of all possible worlds’ then we are in big trouble.


  11. Rose says:

    Further to the Oxford model.

    East Sussex family may have been infected with coronavirus as early as mid-January

    “A family from East Sussex may have been Britain’s first coronavirus victims, catching the virus in mid-January after visiting an Austrian ski resort which is now under investigation for allegedly covering up the early outbreak.
    If confirmed with official tests, it would mean the outbreak in Britain started more than a month earlier than currently thought.
    As things stand, the first recorded UK case was January 31 and the earliest documented incidence of transmission within the UK occurred on February 28.

    IT consultant Daren Bland, 50, was skiing in Ischgl, Austria from January 15 to 19 with three friends, two from Denmark and one from Minnesota in America.
    All three men fell ill on their return with classic coronavirus symptoms and Mr Bland passed on the infection to his wife and children in Maresfield, east Sussex.
    A virus which caused a dry cough then spread rapidly through the locality in the weeks running up to the February half term, with many local children taking time off school with illness.”

    “Austrian prosecutors on Tuesday opened an criminal investigation into allegations a suspected infection in the resort of Ischgl was covered up allowing Covid-19 to spread across Europe undetected.
    Hundreds of infections in Germany, Iceland, Norway and Denmark have been traced back to the resort in the Tyrolean Alps by European investigators but Mr Bland and his family are the first in the UK known to be associated with the resort.”

    Not to be confused with

    British businessman Steve Walsh dubbed coronavirus ‘super-spreader’ now ‘fully recovered’ after hospital treatment
    11th February

    “The businessman at the centre of a UK outbreak of coronavirus has thanked the NHS for his treatment and said he is “fully recovered”.
    “Steve Walsh, from Hove in East Sussex, who is still in quarantine in Guy’s Hospital in London, picked up coronavirus while at a conference in Singapore.

    On his way back to the UK, he stopped off for several days at a French ski chalet, where five Britons were subsequently infected with the virus.
    He is also linked to at least five further cases of coronavirus in the UK, including two doctors, one of whom worked at a Brighton surgery that has closed its doors.”

    It looks like they’ve been coming at us from all sides.

  12. Furtive Ferret says:

    I posted this over at Longrider’s place yesterday but seeing this post made me think it would be worth posting it here too. Here is my own experience:

    I agree with Hector’s analysis of the situation and that it has been around, unidentified, since November 2019. Furthermore I think that I actually had this as far back as the middle of December 2019 as well. The reason for this view is that as an Asthmatic and therefore in one of the “at risk” groups I have had my fair share of serious chest infections over the years so I know what to expect and how to deal with it. I also have the flu-jab. But whatever I had in December was quite different:

    Normally when I get a chest infection, I cough up loads of crap from my lungs but rarely does it cause me to be seriously breathless and I let things run their natural course without a visit to the docs or antibiotics.

    What was different about this was the initial high temperature (peak 39.8) and the rapid cycling of my temperature over a number of days. This was followed by a dry cough, at which point I thought, “I’ve got away with this, it hasn’t gone to my chest.” Then came the breathlessness after about 5 days. Fuck me! I’ve never been so breathless in all my days and lots of coughing. I upped my Asthma medication and it had limited effect. After five days of that (day 10 by this point) I was on the verge of going to the Docs. My wife persuaded me not to on the basis of all the Doc is going to tell you to do is rest, take plenty of fluids and paracetamol. So I didn’t go to the Docs and by day 12 to 14 I can feel an improvement in my breathing.

    Two other data points for this: A work colleague that I had been at a Christmas meal with two days before my symptoms appeared noted exactly the same symptoms over the same period when we spoke a couple of weeks ago. I also visited my sister on 23rd December while suffering these symptoms (day 8 for me) and she noted that she was laid up with the same malady between Christmas and New Year.

    People on other forums have also reported similar symptoms as “totally different to having the flu”. I don’t think this is a coincidence and it will be interesting to take an anti-body test when one becomes available.

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