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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Lies, damn lies and statistics – reporting the ‘stats’ of Covid-19

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Lies, damn lies and statistics – reporting the ‘stats’ of Covid-19 | The Thaiger
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The world pushed through the half a million new cases today, along with 24,000+ deaths, as authorities around the globe struggle to contain the Covid-19 virus as it continues to spread.

Today there are 532,000+ active cases, and growing quickly, some 60,000 more identified cases than there were just two days ago. The USA is now the leader in cases, passing China’s total of 81,285 cases yesterday. Italy will also pass China’s total early today.

But why are the statistics so wonky, with death rates and reported cases so varied around the world? The problem is, as in most cases, the statistics, whilst a valuable guide and resource, can also tell the wrong story.

Why is the death rate so high (11%) in Italy? And why is the death rate so low in Germany and South Korea? How come the UK has comparatively fewer cases than nearby Europe? And how is Russia being able to contain its cases, well, statistically?

Lies, damn lies and statistics - reporting the 'stats' of Covid-19 | News by The ThaigerWorldometers.com (7am Thai time)

The online maps available all feed off the same data bases and are only as accurate as the information that is being fed to them.

One of the maps, presented by the Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, has been a valuable resource for people following the spread of the coronavirus, being viewed more than 1 billion times every day. The Thaiger uses information from a different resource, Worldometers, but the data is all the same. There are plenty of others jumping on the digital bandwagon as the world turns to the internet for answers.

Lies, damn lies and statistics - reporting the 'stats' of Covid-19 | News by The Thaiger

John Hopkins University map

Now everyone’s an expert, it seems, armed with the latest statistics. With some extra time on our hands previously employed hotel managers are now instant epidemiologists, and English teachers are discussing the comparative death rates.

Real epidemiologists have a warning. All nations have different reporting standards, different testing protocols, different capacities to trace new cases and different attitudes to reporting cases to the public. And those differences can all be in the mix in just one country, with differences across states, provinces or districts.Lies, damn lies and statistics - reporting the 'stats' of Covid-19 | News by The Thaiger

Who is being tested? Where are they being tested? What is the standard of testing? What test result signals a ‘new case’?

The UK government says the national health system doesn’t currently have the capacity to test everyone who has Covid-19 symptoms. So only patients sick enough to require hospital treatment are getting tested, according to the UK government.

The relatively low number of tests done in the UK explains why the active case numbers appear so much lower when compared to other European countries. It doesn’t mean fewer people are sick, just that fewer people are being tested.

In South Korea, where there was an early outbreak of Covid-19, access to testing is free and available for anyone who a doctor thinks needs it. South Korean medical authorities jumped on the early spread and have been actively tracing the contacts of infected patients. The early containment, transparent reporting and easy testing protocols has allowed the country, even with 9,241 cases, only end up with 131 deaths.

In Germany, up to a reported 44,000 cases today, anyone who shows “flu-like symptoms” and has travelled to a high-risk region, or come into contact with a confirmed case in the past 14 days, gets tested. The death rate in Germany has remained around .6%.

Internationally, the comparisons rely on a cocktail of different sources. The graphic maps, which are the go-to resource for the media and real experts, pull in data from the World Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and China’s national health commission. There are other internal medical sources that contribute to the daily stats.

But whilst the numbers and graphs can provide an overall picture, and trends, frontline scientists spend a lot of time looking at the epidemic curve, that the the shape of the graph that captures the total number of new cases in each country day by day.

Lies, damn lies and statistics - reporting the 'stats' of Covid-19 | News by The Thaiger
Lisa Gitelman, an NYU professor, is also the writer of a book “Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron.”

“If different nations have different standards and conditions, they at least generate a consistent curve if those standards and conditions are stable across time.”

“If the UK suddenly starts testing many more people and sees a big jump in new cases, it doesn’t necessarily mean the epidemic is spreading faster. Similarly, if a country runs out of tests, it may suddenly report a misleading drop in new cases.”

Accurate information is important, because to defeat the virus, people need to be willing to comply with strict restrictions and officials need facts to guide their decisions. Scientists say the only way to defeat the virus is through social distancing, which requires citizens to drastically alter their way of life.

On January 25, 2020, when there were only a total of 2,105 cases, almost all in China at that stage, the Chinese Government embarked on a massive social experiment, recommended by their epidemic experts, to lockdown 930 million people. Not just a ‘lockdown’, as has been rolled out piecemeal in many western countries, but a REAL lockdown – “go to your homes and stay there!”

The draconian measures appears to have worked to control the spread of Covid-19 in a country of nearly 1.4 billion. At this stage anyway. To convince people to obey rules about isolation, the world’s politicians need to make a convincing case that the situation is serious enough to merit such sacrifices.

Effective social distancing is a bit like being pregnant, you’re either pregnant or you’re not. The only real social distancing is to lock yourself away from other people, completely. With ‘social distancing’, as practiced outside China, you can ask people to stay in their homes whilst cultivating a binge of panic buying, forcing thousands to crowd together in supermarkets.

In Thailand the government has told foreigners they have to assemble paperwork and visit their local immigration department to get visa extensions, causing long, crowded queues of people scrambling and desperate to stay ‘legal’. The reality is they’re just a congregation of potential virus spreaders.

No two countries are alike when it comes to access to their healthcare standards, testing availability and medical resources. There is also huge variation in the populations’ underlying health conditions and age demographics.

Watch and acknowledge the daily statistics but understand they are only a guide. Meanwhile, do what you can to maintain proper social distancing and ensure you don’t become just another number on a graph.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hong Kong partially locks down, forcing thousands to undergo Covid screening

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Hong Kong partially locks down, forcing thousands to undergo Covid screening | The Thaiger

Hong Kong’s government is forcing a partial lockdown until 10,000 residents of an area in the Kowloon peninsula, complete a Covid-19 test. The 2 day lockdown in the city’s poorest neighbourhood of Jordan, comes after a new strain of the coronavirus was identified, making it the 1st lockdown that the city has seen.

The area, which features many deteriorating buildings and 150 stacked housing blocks, has confirmed 162 confirmed cases of Covid-19 this month, with the ratio of virus detected in sewage samples from buildings there was higher than that of other areas.

Over the last 2 months the city has been hit by a 4th wave of infections with authorities struggling to bring the daily numbers down. Such clusters have hit the low-income neighbourhoods the most, which are notorious for cramped conditions in districts such as Yau Tsim Mong.

In recent days, health officials began mandatory testing in some 70 buildings in the area but the government has now decided to test everyone much to the confusion of local residents. As rumours of a lockdown were leaked to the local media, the government didn’t officially announce the measure until this morning. The area is also home to many ethnic minorities, mainly South Asian Hong Kongers, a community that often faces discrimination and poverty.

Earlier in the week a senior health official was criticised when he suggested ethnic minority residents might be spreading the virus more readily because “they like to share food, smoke, drink alcohol and chat together.”

The health official’s comments also came as a video was released of predominantly white migrants dancing at a packed brunch on the more affluent Hong Kong Island. But those who agreed with the health official pointed to cramped conditions, not race or culture, as being the cause of the virus spreading more easily.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket wants Bangkok arrivals to skip quarantine to help tourism revenue

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Phuket wants Bangkok arrivals to skip quarantine to help tourism revenue | The Thaiger

Phuket’s tourism representatives are calling for an end to the mandatory quarantine levied at tourists arriving to the province from Bangkok. The tourism delegation have also told Phuket’s provincial government to be prepared to start receiving international tourists starting in October.

According to The Phuket News, such a plan would include a requirement for all international travellers to Thailand to have the Covid-19 vaccine. By that time, it is expected that Phuket will have 70% of its population vaccinated, with the timeline possibly being sped up by the province planning to buy the vaccines with its own funds. Such a move would bypass the national government’s timeline with the hopes of innoculating registered residents quicker. Governor Narong says such quarantine measures in place currently are preventing the province from profitting off domestic tourism.

“Phuket has been hit hard by the 2nd epidemic. Thai tourists do not come because they do not want to quarantine and follow the difficult steps to enter the province, not to mention there are no foreign tourists at this time.”

In a meeting, the PTA President Bhummikitti, said the Covid-19 vaccine was “the last ticket and the last hope” for Phuket tourism, “because Phuket tourism has no way out at this time.”

“Thai people are unable to travel due to the second outbreak, and foreign tourists are not to be mentioned at all. Vaccines are the hope of the Phuket tourism sector.”

“The private sector wants to get clarity from the government whether we can follow this plan or not, because if it is left like this – open, close, lockdown and so on, as in the past – local businesses are all dead.”

Bhummikitti pointed out that the government had promised to work with local industry on all matters related to Covid-19 and keeping the local economy alive. He said that the move would “allow tourism and the Phuket economy to be able to walk once more from having fewer Thai tourists.”

Governor Narong said tracking systems will be in place when tourists do come back to the province.

“In order to ensure tourists that Phuket citizens as well as incoming tourists are safe from the Covid-19 virus, there will be a tracking system, and a fund established to be used as a remedy [sic] to help those affected if there is an infection from incoming tourists.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Eastern provinces growing impatient with safety measures as Covid cases decrease

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Eastern provinces growing impatient with safety measures as Covid cases decrease | The Thaiger

Thailand’s eastern provinces are growing impatient as local businesses and residents await a relaxation in Covid-19 safety measures after seeing a drop in cases. Chonburi, Chanthaburi, Trat and Rayong are under a “highly controlled” status set by the CCSA (Samut Sakhon, south west of Bangkok, also falls into the same category at this time). These provinces, along with Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakarn, are under the strictest control measures in the country.

The cause of such tough measures levied upon the provinces was due to a spike in Covid cases after illegal gambling operations in Rayong and Chonburi were found to feature participants with the Covid-19 virus. But now, those areas are reporting very few cases of the virus leaving residents frustrated as they are unable to make a living or travel.

There has been only 1 case in the past 2 days in all 4 of the Eastern provinces. That case was in Rayong, with all other cases being in the low single digits. On top of the low cases, any new cases have been promptly dealt with by requiring contact-tracing, tracking and quarantine. But any hopes of the measures relaxing has been pushed back to the end of the month, with many questioning such a delay.

Bangkok, which has seen more cases reported than all 4 eastern provinces combined, is now easing restrictions by allowing 13 types of businessesto reopen. The move has baffled the eastern provinces as such businesses are still ordered to shutter. The government has responded, somewhat, by offering a 3,500 baht handout for 2 months, but registration for the handout doesn’t start until the end of this month. When the money actually hits residents’ pockets is also unknown as it could take weeks.

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