Friday, 25 September 2020

Stupid people who think they've said something clever

I idly watched a few minutes of Jeremy Vine this morning, they were discussing covid-19.

There was a very sensible lady called Beverley Turner who was recommending a Swedish style approach.

Iain Dale, the man who manages to be wrong on nearly everything, started bleating that Sweden has a much lower population density, 25 people per sq km, against 270 in the UK, as if that were relevant to anything.

Beverley gave an exasperated look, but wasn't given the chance to slap this down. The point being, this statistic is completely irrelevant to anything.

Firstly, the populated areas of Sweden are just as densely populated as the populated parts of the UK. The uninhabited parts are irrelevant. Most of Scotland is nigh empty - they all live in towns and villages as well - so their infection rates are the same as England's.

Secondly, what matters, as far as infection rates are concerned, is how many people you come into close contact with every day i.e. how many elderly in a care home and how many non-residents (workers or visting relatives) go in and out; how many children are in a class at school and how many teachers take each class; how many people there are in each workplace; how many people you sit near in the pub or on public transport; how many people live in each home.

It is quite possible that Swedes come into close contact with fewer people each day (if it were even possible to calculate it, which you can't) and have smaller households than we do , but it's not going to be wildly different. Which is why Sweden's rate of covid-19 deaths per million population is similar to the UK's (581 against 616).


Rich Tee said...

I have always understood that the Swedish tend to socialise in their own homes far more than in bars and clubs, partly because alcohol is so expensive - and the stronger stuff is only sold in one government-owned chain of shops - and also because of the generally colder climate.

So they have less need to introduce harsh lockdown measures if they are not socially mixing in bars and clubs in the first place.

View from the Solent said...

Can't remember the source, but ~85% of Swedes in in urban/suburban areas. Especially urban, they don't have sprawling suburbs like we do.

Mark Wadsworth said...

RT, like I said, it's quite possible that the average Swede comes into close contact with fewer other people every day, but it's impossible to measure. How close is close? Passenger next to you on the bus for twenty minutes = close. Passenger at other end of the bus..? Passenger in front of you in the queue in the open air..?

VFTS, I'm quite sure that's true, but hardly surprising.

Bayard said...

You have to remember that Sweden can't have got it right. Bugger the science, if Sweden got it right, then our government got it wrong and all those billions spent on furlough would have been wasted and that can't be allowed to be true.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, apparently, Sweden is still running a fiscal surplus. And Sweden didn't completely "get it right", their care home deaths are as appalling as ours. But the under 60s (or wherever the cut-off was) were just allowed to get on with it and unsurprisingly, their under-60 death rates are as low as ours (i.e. negligible).

Jack C said...

Interesting comments and observations Mark on your various threads. The action taken by Governments around the world relative to the number of deaths seems to me to be totally disproportionate.

Any thoughts on the real agenda?

Jack C

Mark Wadsworth said...

JC, some go with "conspiracy", quite by whom and why is never clear (you just make it up).

My view is, governments just copied each other without thinking too hard. If every govt does it with the same outcome, there's no way to prove they were wrong, so the default assumption is they all did the right thing.

If it weren't for Sweden taking a different approach, we would never have found out that it's all nonsense.

There are other extremes, like NZ and many Pacific Islands, full-on 100% hard lock down and travel bans from very early on. That does seem to have paid off in term of number of deaths, but what we don't know is:
1. What was the economic damage, and was it worth it? (large but unknown figure for damage divided by number of avoided deaths, also unknown)
2. Are they just delaying? If nobody's had it, they will never have herd immunity, so the minute they open up again, all hell breaks loose. Unless the virus itself has become a lot less virulent (which also seems likely).

Jack C said...

Hi Mark, thanks for the prompt and reasoned response.

If you haven't yet seen a video by Ivor Cummins titled "Viral Issue Crucial Update Sept 8th: the Science, Logic and Data Explained!" its well worth watching IMO

No HPC as yet but I'm sure 2021 will be a test

Hope all is well at your end


Mark Wadsworth said...

JC, ta, I watched the first 5 minutes. He knows how to completely demolish all the nonsenses!

Next financial crisis will be 2025 or 2026. They come every 18 years.

George Carty said...

Any of you seen the article by Michael P Senger, arguing that the lockdowns were the result of a co-ordinated social media campaign orchestrated by the Chinese government?

China's Global Lockdown Propaganda Campaign

George Carty said...

Jack C: "Any thoughts on the real agenda?"

Perhaps they wanted to get people working from home en masse in order to reduce CO2 emissions from commuting?

Bayard said...

"No HPC as yet but I'm sure 2021 will be a test"

I hear that rents and prices have started to fall in London as people start to flee, wit a corresponding rise everywhere else. Also anecdotally, I have heard that prices of houses suitable for DFLs (Down From London) have been enjoying a surge here in West Wales.

L fairfax said...

Could the difference be because the Swedes are thinner than us, the US and the Spanish?
Good point about the population density being irrelvant though.

Mark Wadsworth said...

GC, I love a good conspiracy theory, but I don't believe that one.

B, all true, but overall prices have stayed up.

LF, there is no significant difference between Sweden, USA, UK deaths per million. It was mainly the elderly in each country. Age is main factor, being a fatty is only marginal.

L fairfax said...


Thanks for that.
I would love to know how the total deaths for this year in Sweden compare to the 10 years average - because if it is not significantly different - do we really need lockdown in the UK?

Rich Tee said...

Governments are just copying each other, but also so many decisions are now made at a supra and global level that politicians don't have much to do anymore so they are jumping at the chance to be useful.

And many of them are the type of nerd who got bullied at school and didn't get invited to parties so they are getting their revenge by spoiling everybody else's fun. That's why the appear to be enjoying it.

Rich Tee said...

My other slightly more far fetched theory is that politicians are worried about social disorder triggered by the BLM/XR crowd (see what is happening in the USA) so they are instituting crackdowns and curfews this way so they don't have to admit what they're doing.

Mark Wadsworth said...

LF "do we really need lockdown in the UK?" No of course not, we all know that. Look after the elderly, wear face masks on the bus, turn the music down in pubs, ban flights from China, those are sensible precautions, the rest is nonsense.

RT, yes, there is a lot of bansturbation going on. Are people really more likely to be infected after 10 o'clock? FFS.

RT, that's a rubbish conspiracy theory. In any event, they let the BLM/XR people do what they want. They only crack down on the ant-vaxxer nutters.

Sobers said...

There's also smoking (and snuff taking) to be taken into account with the comparisons between Sweden and the UK. Snuff is very popular in Sweden, combined with smoking it makes tobacco consumption considerably higher there than here And the stats all show that smoking is inversely correlated with ending up dead from Covid. ts thought that nicotine somehow interferes with the ability of the virus to attach itself to the throat.

George Carty said...

MW 17:47,

Which conspiracy theory? My rather flippant one about eco-warriors wanting to end commuting, or Michael Senger's arguing that lockdowns were the result of a moral panic whipped up by the Chinese Communist Party?

MW 18:40,

What's the point of banning flights from China (specifically), given that the UK was overwhelmingly infected from Europe, not directly from China?

Mark Wadsworth said...

S, yes, there is inverse relationship between smoking and dying of covid-19. I'm not sure it's made much different with Sweden.

GC, both of them. There is a borderline plausible one doing the rounds that says China tricked the rest of the world into doing lock downs to wreck their economies. See here. Which is probably nonsense as well, and even if it isn't, who's at fault? The Chinese for giving it a try or our leaders for being so f---ing gullible?

Banning flights - yes, this would have to be done by all European countries simultaneously.