Friday, May 15, 2020 Why can't the Germans be more like us?

Germany locked down at about the same time as the UK. Actually probably a couple of days earlier, according to Wikipedia and Flaxman et al. Picking a single date is a bit subjective really, but for the purposes of this post I’ll choose the 21st March. So why are they doing so much better than the UK? Well, the main reason is just that they were at a much earlier stage in their epidemic. On the 23rd, the UK had had 508 deaths. On the 21st, Germany was at 47. So that’s a factor of about 10. They were about 9 or 10 days behind us in terms of where they were on the upslope. 10 days ahead of our lockdown, Vallance was saying we had to be careful of not clamping down too soon. What would have happened if the Germans had waited a week?

This is of course quite an easy calculation to do. I can fit the model as before, and then run a simulation with the lockdown date delayed a week. Here it is, looking roughly similar to the post I just did for the UK, except this time the blue line goes higher due to locking down later. Sorry for over-writing the lockdown dates. Never mind. They are 21 and 28 March.

Playing the same game as before, sliding the blue graph along by a week (backwards this time) and then dividing it by 4…and it hits the magenta one again, and even has the same small mismatch due to a hint of herd immunity at the right hand edge. Once again, the doubling time I get from the fit is 3.5 days so delaying by a week would have quadrupled the death toll. These total death tolls are the integral all the way down the slope off the end of the graph, by the way, which is why the total both here and in the previous post is a bit higher than the current number.

It would still have been a little bit less than ours, but it would have been close. Good to know we can still beat the Germans at something.

As for why our total is only about 5x the German one rather than the factor of 10 that we had on our lockdown day...mostly just the random deviations from the exponential slope at the start. By early April (and therefore too soon for it to have been a result of the policy) the ratio in death totals was only 6, and it's stayed close to that ever since. Their lockdown also seems to have been a bit more effective, in terms of the estimated Rt value. Probably they didn't have the same care home fiasco which is currently fuelling our outbreak.


crandles said...

Maybe we wouldn't have had the care home fiasco if our demand for ppe had been 80% lower?

Otherwise, you might expect that higher scarier numbers might make the lockdown more effective? Or, maybe that would be overwhelmed by differences like Germans being disciplined and obeying the rules while we have too many believing and following nonsense social media?

James Annan said...

I tend to think people are people all over. One thing that might have made a difference to behaviour is consistent competent messaging and leadership, rather than the PM boasting of shaking hands with cv patients, spreading the disease round at the highest levels of government and policy-making by selective leaking.

crandles said...

England and Scotland have very similar infection rate or at least confirmed cases per population looks similar.

Wales has higher rate but deaths seem to be under a third of the peak rate whereas England/UK seems to be above one third.

How should this be viewed? Wales is doing better at getting R down to lower levels or is it more a case of excess deaths because hospitals were overwhelmed have disappeared? Should lockdown in Wales be eased faster due to lower R or more slowly due to higher infection rate?

(Yes, I should probably also distinguish current infection rate from past infection rate. High current rate probably causing slower easing of lockdown while higher past infection rate might mean more easing of restrictions possible due to any immunity effects. Not sure what numbers to look at for this.)

Should we be easing restrictions to get R to 0.9 or is it more a case of want R to be much lower than 0.9 but we can't afford economic cost or something else?

Frank said...

crandles, as a German I can tell you that these "BS social media" are also involved here. Many people go to "Freedom demonstrations", believing all the stupid things that are spreaded. IMO there is not a big difference between UK and Germany. Why has Germany the better outcome in the case of Covid-19? A little luck at first. And we had the advantage of having a scientist (Physics) as the leader, listoning to the virulogists, making evidence based decisions. However, this advantage is dead and gone now.

James Annan said...

crandles, the only data that are worth anything in terms of comparisons are deaths and even that assumes they are counting equivalently.

Germany did better because it locked down sooner. Sure, cases looked high, but that was just because they were testing. Deaths were lower, meaning they weren't up the exponential curve so far.

The future is still very uncertain everywhere, but worse in the UK than just about everywhere else in Europe, it seems.

crandles said...

>worse in the UK than just about everywhere else in Europe

Just found
can be sorted by deaths per 1m population:

San Marino 1,209
Belgium 784
Andorra 660
Spain 591
Italy 528
UK 511

UK overtaking Italy and possibly Spain may well be likely.

11 of top 12 countries are in Europe. Perhaps indicates numbers of deaths may well not be equivalent between more and less developed countries.