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Some commentators are still looking at the total number of deaths in any one country as a means of determining how successful or otherwise the response to the Covid outbreak has been.

This is meaningless unless it is compared with the size of the total population in question. Expressing the number of deaths per unit population is a way of standardising the numbers to make comparisons meaningful. They are often reported as per 100,000 population or per million population.

Here are some of the latest figures although reporting times vary from country to country. They are taken from nationally reported statistics.

It is too early to be able to make full assessments as to why the numbers vary so much from country to country and from region to region. Why should Belgium, for example, have rates which are so much higher than its neighbours in the Netherlands or Germany?

In Italy, the Lombardy region, which contains Milan, has a death rate of 1303 per million people while Lazio, where Rome is situated, has a much lower rate of only 65 per million.

In the UK, the discrepancy is equally large with London the highest at 506 per million and the south-west the lowest at 147 per million. A number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the differences including population density, the age and health of the population and the ethnic make-up of different cities and regions.

The nature and the speed of restrictive measures will also need to be considered with particular attention being paid to Sweden which stands out because of its different approach to lockdown.

It is also important to note that we will need to be able to consider the longer-term excess death rate rather than any short-term numbers before we can make judgements about the effectiveness of any response.

There will also be considerable interest in the ways in which patients have been treated, particularly for conditions such as ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) with doctors constantly learning from best practice internationally.

Those who want to jump to conclusions to suit their own political or journalistic narrative need to understand that failing to take into account the huge number of variables and make simplistic judgements will be unlikely to enhance their reputations for rational and accurate analysis.

148 comments for: Liam Fox: How to assess virus death rates properly. Those making make simplistic judgements are unlikely to enhance their reputations.

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