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Covid charts a grim path

As the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic bites, we revisit charts first published in August 2020, to gain a sense of perspective on the spread of the virus among the countries we cover.

It is now one year since the first coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic is believed to have started. The virus still shows no sign of abating, with the UK recording the most deaths in a single day for the second day in a row.

Back in those glorious days between lockdowns, when the sun was shining and our liberties were returning to a degree, a second wave of the pandemic seemed nothing more than a vague possibility. We had plenty of warning and yet even so, it was difficult to imagine a return to the lockdown of the spring.

Yet here we are, deep in a second wave, with statistics that send a shiver down our collective spine. To illustrate the magnitude of this emergency, we have updated a slide we first published on August 28, 2020 at the end of the summer break. This records the number of Coronavirus cases and deaths for the six areas across the globe that we regularly cover in our global update, (England and Wales are incorporated in the UK figures). It does not make for happy reading.

Global Trends

The Second Wave

Over the length of the Autumn Term and the Christmas holiday, the death rates per 100,000 have doubled in all of the areas we cover. However, there is still a considerable variation between countries. In the UAE it is 7.2, Canada 48.6 and the United Kingdom over 132.9.

The number of cases has increased even more rapidly. In the UAE they have risen 376 per cent, Canada and the Channel Islands around 550 per cent, Sweden 627 per cent and the UK 1,040 per cent. Much of this can be attributed to a far more effective testing regime in all countries.

Global deaths now stand at 2,031,052 and cases at 95,051,894.  Cases are now increasing from 60 million to 80 million in one month compared to the two months it took for them to increase from 20 million to 40 million.

We are now firmly in the eye of the second pandemic storm. Lockdowns, curfew and home-schooling is the norm. With this latest surge being brought on in some areas by new variants of the disease.  Added to this, in the Northern Hemisphere it is winter, with fading light and cold weather restricting the time people are able to spend outdoors. Thus the virus can spread more rapidly as individuals gather indoors. These new restrictions are having a positive impact on cases, but it is often a month or more before we see a similar trend emerging in deaths. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that the next few months are going to be the most taxing of all.

Variable Impact

As well as the difference in rates between countries, the virus has also had a variable impact according to age. For example, as the pie chart for Jersey illustrates, the elder members of the population have borne the brunt of the disease.  The implication of this has been felt on education as governments have considered students and teachers a low risk and strived to keep schools open for as long as possible. Particularly targeting vulnerable students and students whose parents/carers are health or others defined as key workers.

The virus has not only discriminated with age but also with ethnicity and degree of social disadvantage. This has been seen directly in the statistics for cases and deaths and indirectly as people cope with the impact of long periods of lockdown.

A report for the UK Houses of Parliament published September 1 2020 summarised the impact COVID-19 was having on the socially disadvantaged. This highlighted:

  • School closures, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to have widened the disadvantage gap. This is because disadvantaged pupils tend to have less access to technology, spend less time learning and have reduced support from parents/carers compared with their peers.
  • Attempts to moderate grades based on an algorithm were met with widespread criticism, as many claimed that disadvantaged students were disproportionately affected. The Government has since reversed this decision.

They go on to report that this has long-term implications for these students and for the UK as a whole are considerable.  Stating that:

For the next 50 years, this (the impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged students) has the potential to affect a quarter of the entire workforce, and disadvantaged students are particularly at risk of falling into poverty.

This at a time when, after a number of years in which the gap has steadily closed, progress had already stalled before the outbreak.

Vaccination

However, there is reason for optimism that at last the situation might be brought under control as a number of vaccines have been created, approved and started to be used. Here the UAE and the UK have been quick off the mark.  As one would expect in such a complex and potentially risky situation, the issues of supply, accreditation, acceptance and distribution means that countries are moving at different speeds. For example, Quebec has had to put back its programme for supply issues, Dubai does not have a large proportion of elderly people to protect so it is offering vaccines to all, whilst in the UK as the screenshot of the UK Government’s priority list show, has a framework based upon the potential impact on different groups with the most vulnerable been vaccinated first.

UK Government, 30 December, 2020

Ambitious timetables are being set for the vaccines to roll out. The aim is to reach a tipping point as quickly as possible where enough of the population are inoculated, thus allowing life to return to normal.  We all wait with guarded optimism to see when that day will come. As we have learnt throughout these troubling times, nothing can be taken for granted.


This concludes our description of the current global context from our experience. We will report in more detail on the impact of the pandemic on all the countries we report upon in our next postings.

Take care and stay safe

George

 

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