The rest of the iceberg

  1. This is a completely new disease so there are no international standards whatsoever on how to deal with this, even the diagnostic tests are still being developed, and every professional involved is having a hard enough time trying to deal with the tsunami on a day by day basis. So forget taking the time for keeping and checking an accurate tally of positives, recoveries and deaths.
  2. As a result, the figures reported by public agencies vary enormously, since each one will be following whatever guidelines and resources they have available. One example, some countries like the UK were only counting COVID deaths when patients had tested positive and died in hospital, thus leaving out all those in care homes, a very significant percentage. As a result, the UK appeared to have a far lower mortality rate than other countries which were counting the deaths of any COVID positive patient even if diagnosed over the phone, like Belgium.
  3. Of course, this difference in reporting can be down to countries following different guidelines, but also to a deliberate effort to downplay the number of cases and victims. Knowing how some governments control their population through media censorship and propaganda, the reliability of their reported figures should be taken with a big dose of scepticism. In fact, since statistics are called that way because they come from the state, here’s a map of the countries where they should be called sceptistics instead.
  4. Even with the best intentions, these figures depend on the sampling on which they are based. Unless every person in a country has been tested, we can’t know the exact number of infections. The next best thing is testing as many people as possible, because the more people we test, the more accurately we can model the spread. But even here there are pitfalls; it is not the same to test 100 people who come into a hospital as 100 individuals at random. And of course, some places are having their scarce resources completely swamped by the situation, to the point that they are having to use cardboard coffins and dig mass graves, so widespread testing is the last of their concerns.

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