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Weekend reading: Under-infected, over-optimistic

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What caught my eye this week.

Mixed events in the global soap opera saga Coronavirus this week.

The good news is the Prime Minister returned from that episode to tell us we’re probably past the peak of Covid-19.

The focus now is on R, aka the reproduction number. Keep it under ‘1’ and the pandemic is not spreading exponentially.

As a nation our R number is now somewhere under 1. Probably between 0.5 and 0.75, although it may still be higher in some places like (tragically) care homes.

Ruh-Roh

The lower the R the better, obviously, but the question will increasingly be how much more [insert what matters most to you] damage we can take to lower it further?

Getting R down from the 3 to 4.5 level that looked like it might overrun the NHS was a no-brainer. But there’ll be diminishing returns.

Full lockdown – or even just heavy social distancing – has health as well as economic consequences, too. Some people will die earlier because we brought a recession upon ourselves.

Yet equally, every micro-notch higher in R that we accept means someone somewhere will die before their time from Covid-19.

That’s the equation for the upcoming weeks.

There are no easy answers. Perhaps there was a more promising hypothesis, but the past seven days looks to have done for it.

Spread ’em

I’ve been mildly obsessed with Covid-19 since January (and mildly infected, I believe, in early March). I’ve ridden a rollercoaster from being precociously concerned to evasive action to believing things might not be as bad as was thought and now I’m halfway back again.

Long story short1 a series of intuitions (or guesses, if you prefer) informed by endless reading about Covid-19 convinced me the virus was spreading far faster in the UK than was generally thought likely.

All the experts knew the virus was spreading more quickly than reported cases, of course. But I (no expert) believed it was circulating faster again.

That was a comforting thesis because it suggested (1) the virus wasn’t as deadly as even the more middling predictions suggested and (2) we might reach some level of herd immunity sooner rather than later.

It’s long been clear this virus has a Great White Shark’s nose for the elderly and vulnerable, and I’ve been frustrated we either couldn’t or didn’t shield them better.

But in a super-infectious scenario, for the vast majority of us Covid-19 would be a very mild infection, mostly asymptomatic.

And by the time full lockdown was called, I felt it was possible a large number of us in London at least had already had it.

That proved to be right… a bit.

Peak deaths for the virus occurred in early April. Working backwards gets you to peak infections towards the end of the second week of March.

But how many? For that we can first consider deaths.

It’s hard to unpick the roughly 30,000 or so excess deaths we’ve seen so far in England and Wales in 2020.

Most will be due to Covid-19, but some may have been attributed to the virus incorrectly. For example, there were fewer heart disease related deaths in March. Perhaps some were blamed on Covid-19?

But just crudely guessing 30,000 and assuming an infection fatality rate (IFR) of 1%, that gets you to three million or so infected, with peak infection probably occurring in or around the period of voluntary lockdown, but just before mandated lockdown.

So overall millions have been infected – but not enough to be good news.

Unless… the IFR was much less than 1%, because far more people had been infected?

Start spreading the blues

That left antibody testing carrying the baby.

The hope was antibody testing would reveal that in areas of rampant morbidity to the coronavirus – such as Italy, London, and New York – many, MANY more people had been infected.

If this was true then you could indeed pull down the IFR.

Well, over the past seven days we got the first large scale data – from New York City and Stockholm – and it’s probably not good enough.

The New York City testing is the most promising, implying 25% of its citizens have had Covid-19. However, while that shocked the media it was much lower than I’d been hoping for.

Indeed as reader @Vanguardfan points out, 25% implies an on-consensus IFR of around 1%, if you take into account the number of presumed deaths to Covid-19 in New York City.

And 1% is no comfort if you apply it to the UK’s population of 67 million.

Now, not every last citizen will need to throw the viral dice – we should get some natural resistance to the virus on a population level, before everyone has had it.

However if we assume the chunky herd immunity thresholds that most experts think we’d need to see – at least 50%, possibly more like 70+% – even New York is far from having ‘earned’ an inherent resistance through its deathly exposure2.

This is disappointing to me, though it won’t be unexpected to the experts. It looks like they called it.

Hopium

Much is still unknown about this virus. For every potential fact I find in early research about it, you can retort with another. Anyone waiting for scientific confidence (proof, for shorthand) better have a lot of series lined up on Netflix.

The huge list of Covid-19 links below (perhaps 20% of what I’ve read this week) gives just a taster.

It’s possible that amid this uncertainty there may be other off-ramps from the bad (though not worst-case) scenario:

  • Maybe a large number of people can kill the virus with their immune system so easily that they don’t develop antibodies.
  • Or maybe it’s spread much more widely among the most vulnerable parts of society, which is terrible news right now, but may have elevated the fatality rate and hopefully left the survivors with some resistance.
  • Summer could well curb the spread anyway, which at the least should give us time to better prepare for any resurgence.
  • Maybe the herd immunity threshold will prove lower than presupposed.
  • Or more likely it may turn out that just a few key social distancing actions – no handshakes, avoiding crowds indoors, and washing your hands – will do 90% of the R-lowering. (The Swedish approach.)
  • Kids may not be infectious, too, taking them out of the equation altogether.

I have reasons for making all those suggestions, based on my own reading.

But the truth is there’s an equally long list of reasons to be pessimistic.

As Freddie Sayers concludes in a sober piece on UnHerd that pits Sweden’s top epidemiologist against our own leading figure:

…it’s time to stop pretending that our response to this threat is simply a scientific question, or even an easy moral choice between right and wrong.

It’s a question of what sort of world we want to live in, and at what cost.

An ‘ell of a recession

Bottom line: I no longer hope for a very quick exit from this nightmare, unless perhaps R collapses extremely rapidly in the next few weeks and we can go back to trying test and tracing.

And this probably kicks the V-shaped recovery into the long grass. The drag from physical distancing and other anti-viral precautions alone could knock a few percentage points off GDP, even if we go back to semi-normal.

What are football matches, trade conferences, pubs, easy air travel, and the Glastonbury Festival worth to GDP, to name but a few lost causes?

Even if fatal Covid-19 cases do plunge and more normality can be reinstated, for as long as outbreaks flare up it may be hard to persuade some people to take their chances.

We’ve been bombarded with deathly warnings about the virus and kept under house arrest for a couple of months on its account. Dinner and a show on Friday night? Many may continue to Deliveroo and chill instead.

And while a cocktail of better treatments (drugs and regimens) will probably be assembled by the end of the year, that’s, well, the end of the year.

So L-shaped recovery it is. Probably what’s priced in by the global stock markets, anyway.

You see, a lot of people are talking about market mania after the quick bounce from the March lows.

But this is mostly a US market thing. And in the US market it’s mostly a tech thing. And of the tech companies, it’s mostly a bunch of cloud giants who couldn’t have come up with a better driver of demand than ‘shelter in place’. Strong demand now, plus their valuations turn on the years of prodigious earnings they’re expected to make long after Covid-19.

No, if you want a market that’s geared to the global economy, look to the UK’s FTSE 100. Its 2020 performance (red) already looks like an ‘L’, versus the (blue) S&P 500’s squint a bit ‘V’:

[Click to increase the suffering]

Source: Yahoo Finance

I’ve always been more worried about the financial impact of global lockdown than most, even while I was slightly more sanguine about the virus.

And now I see economy-dinging restrictions continuing.

So I’ve a horrible feeling that while the UK pandemic probably is past its peak, with the economy it’s like we’re back when people were gasping at footage of Italians stuck inside, hardly realizing the sort of misery we’d soon face.

Note: Fed up with virus chat? I’m planning to drastically reduce the number of Covid-19 links here next week. We’ve just hit that peak, too!

From Monevator

Do US Treasury bonds protect UK investors better than gilts? – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Reminiscences of a stock market wallflower – Monevator

News

Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!3

Sales of almost 400,000 homes stalled due to lockdown, says Zoopla – Guardian

Millions face ‘financial cliff edge’ due to Covid-19 crisis, says Citizens Advice – Guardian

Nationwide: Pre-pandemic house prices rose 3.7% – Financial Reporter

British manufacturers record worst slump since records began 30 years ago – ThisIsMoney

Royal Dutch Shell cuts its dividend for the first time since 1945 – Guardian

Virtual rate cut forces Nintendo Animal Crossing gamers into riskier assets [Free to read]FT

The US has now seen 30 million people file for unemployment – NPR

[Click to enlarge]

Good letter to investment partners on the current Covid-19 reality [PDF]Mary Meeker

Products and services

Treasury to allow first-time buyers to access Lifetime ISAs without penalty – ThisIsMoney

Investment platform account openings surge, despite coronavirus uncertainty – Which?

Tui cancels all beach holidays until June; a million customers affected – Guardian

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

How to apply for a three-month mortgage payment holiday – Which?

Homes on a hillside for sale [Gallery]Guardian

Comment and opinion

Three points to note on active funds and bear markets – Evidence-based Investor

Less is more – Humble Dollar

A defensive move: Looking at gilts – DIY Investor

What was the catalyst for the market rising? – The Irrelevant Investor

Talk is cheap – Of Dollars and Data

Quick look at what a bear market does to a real-life financial plan – Where Eagles Fear To Perch

But what if we’re wrong and the market never bounces back? – Abraham Okusanya

Why I’m not invested in gold – Get Rich Slowly

When you have no idea what happens next – Morgan Housel

Why value died – A Wealth of Common Sense

Naughty corner: Active antics

Terry Smith: If you must do dividends, look to family-owned firms – Portfolio Advisor

Three burning questions for Warren Buffett at tomorrow’s Berkshire event – Morningstar

When Buffett was a quant [On deep value]Verdad [via Abnormal Returns]

This market-timing model just flashed a bullish four-year outlook for stocks – MarketWatch

Musings on misadventure and market madness – Simple Living in Somerset

Timing, luck, and surviving – Fred Wilson

Coronavision

[In email? Visit Monevator if you can’t see a YouTube lecture from CMO Chris Witty]

Self-care in a coronacrisis

This is why you can’t remember yesterday – Medium

Why you should give up on your social life when you’re in a pandemic – Slate

People are having less sex in lockdown – BBC

Feelin’ Groovy – Humble Dollar

Nobody knows what is going on – Mark Manson

All about those antibodies

Antibody testing: A user’s guide to the immune system [Great primer]The Atlantic

It usually takes about 13 days for antibodies to show up in the blood [Research]Nature

25% of NYC residents test positive for Covid-19 [Sadly, result supports a c.1% IFR]Newsweek

Can antibody tests tell if you’re immune to Covid-19? – LiveScience

The false hope of antibody tests – The Atlantic

What policymakers need to know about Covid-19 protective immunity – Lancet

The rest of Covid-19 cornered

Social distancing reduces ‘overshoot’ on the way to herd immunity – Carl Bergstrom via Twitter

Why the Coronavirus pandemic is so confusing [Primer]The Atlantic

Which epidemiologist do you believe? [Sweden versus UK, with videos]Unherd

Experts fail to find a single case of children passing virus to adults – The Age

Social-distancing at airports is ‘impossible’, says Heathrow boss – BBC

What drug trials tell us so far about the anti-viral treatment remdisivir – Science

US germ warfare lab creates test for pre-infectious Covid-19 carriers – Guardian

How does Britain compare with other countries? [It’s too soon]Guardian

Covid-19 deaths twice as high in poorest areas in England and Wales – Guardian

Low Covid-19 death toll raises hopes Africa may be spared worst [Free to read]FT

AI models suggest that masks can ‘significantly’ reduce the spread of coronavirus – Venture Beat

Masks & emasculation: Why some men refuse to take safety precautions – Scientific American

A cautionary tale from San Francisco’s re-opening in the 1918 flu pandemic – NBC News

Many US prisoners test positive in four US jails; reportedly few with symptoms… [to-date]Reuters

…although later stories talked about deaths [Seemingly earlier in breakout?]NBC News

Sweden had no lockdown, but its economy is expected to suffer as badly as neighbours – CNBC

What is the hidden health cost of coronavirus? – BBC

How Italy became ground zero for Europe’s coronavirus crisis [Deep dive, blames business]CNBC

Political prison

Coronavirus & Brexit: the connections and their consequences – Chris Grey

Has Sweden’s coronavirus strategy played into the hands of nationalists? – Guardian

Kindle book bargains

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo Cipolla – £0.99 on Kindle

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz – £1.99 on Kindle

Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley – £0.99 on Kindle

The Hating Game [‘The very best book to self-isolate with’] by Sally Thorne – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

Meteorologists say 2020 on course to be hottest year since records began – Guardian

Microsoft Word now flags double spaces as errors, ending the great space debate – The Verge

Pentagon releases three UFO videos taken by US navy pilots – Guardian

And finally…

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
–Victor Hugo, Les Misérables 

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  1. Read the past two months of Weekend Reading comments for the real-time discussion! []
  2. Presuming such an immunity actually exists, which isn’t definitively proven, but which seems likely. []
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{ 223 comments… add one }
  • 201 marked May 6, 2020, 10:03 pm

    @TI

    Conversely other Trillion dollar stable mates such as GOOG have announced great reductions in their ad revenue, and I can’t believe that AAPL are going to have a great next gen phone launch this year (but that doesn’t seem to be reflected in AAPL’s shareprice).

    So yes, concur – pricey!

  • 202 Jonathan May 6, 2020, 10:46 pm

    @Mcjocko the vitamin D theory has a certain plausibility (like the risks of darker skin) but no direct evidence I have seen. The web link you suggest seems to promote a commercial diet promotion though I don’t have the patience to watch multiple videos.

    But (interest declared) like @TI I supplement my own diet with pills in the darker months.

    @TI the news about new strains becoming dominant is interesting. The very scanty information suggests it might be more infectious but not more dangerous – that is what you would expect as viruses evolve to gain maximum replication in their hosts. But the implications for a successful vaccine are a concern.

  • 203 ZXSpectrum48k May 6, 2020, 11:06 pm

    @TI. My comments were really coming more from the professional side. In a world where a 5% drawdown is guaranteed dismissal and a few percent down raises eyebrows, then (for the majority at least) taking macro views on the global economy, the Fed or COVID19 is pretty much certain to cause you to lose your seat within a few years. Investor often silo PMs in rather arbitrary ways. I’ve been considered long vol/convexity, fixed income arb, low correlation, emerging markets but most often just ‘macro’. Thing is I don’t believe in macro. I’ve learned to sound erudite on macro themes, to impress people with ‘conviction views’, but also not to let those views influence my strategy or risk discipline.

    In 15+ years trading prop and for hedge funds (plus another 5+ in quant strategy), I’ve found that to survive with a tight stop-loss and generate high Sharpe ratios, then it isn’t really about the hit rate (i.e. whether your view is right/wrong) but about the payout ratio when you get it right/wrong. Historically, I only make money 65% of months but my up months are 4x the down months. That’s the key.

    It’s true I’ve had a secular bullish view on lower long-dated yields for about 20 years. I just couldn’t see how inflation expectations, real yield expectations and term premia didn’t all just grind lower over time. I’ve never understood the fear of inflation that many always see. At least not in the current economic regime of monetary dominance and fiscal stasis. I admit, however, I didn’t expect yields to go this low!

    Perhaps because it’s so long term, so structural, I don’t see it as an active view, more a strategic asset allocation. It’s just became a fixed part of the core of my personal portfolio. Same as being long the S&P/Nasdaq but hardly wanting to own the FTSE. I agree all of these are views but perhaps I see active views as more ‘trading’.

  • 204 Matthew May 7, 2020, 6:16 am

    Its not widely realised that the first people to put a city on lockdown was Blue with Fly by:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/officialblue/status/1242212475996700674?lang=en

  • 205 The Investor May 7, 2020, 7:54 am

    The Bank of England is coming out this morning on the side looking for a big V-shaped recovery — it sees a 14% GDP contraction this year and then a 15% advance in 2021:

    https://twitter.com/BruceReuters/status/1258279556076703744

    Off the top of my head that would still be about a 4-5% loss of output across the two years, mind.

  • 206 The Investor May 7, 2020, 8:00 am

    @ZXSpectrum48K — You comments are fascinating of course to a market junkie like me. They also remind me of a couple of the many reasons why I don’t work in the fund management industry despite (a) fancying running hundreds of millions and (b) fancying earning one or two. (The main one being they wouldn’t have me, of course haha).

    Re: Silos, a friend in the business who thinks I should was trying to get me to pin down my style (this was when there was still a (small) chance I might try to set something up) and grew exasperated when I kept explaining to him the various different positions or trades I’d taken over the past 5-10 years. At first I thought he was dismayed because he believed it demonstrated I was just punting around like any other spare room investor, albeit with acceptable results, but I came to see that it was because he couldn’t see how anyone could market any fund I was attached to!

    I think I’ve tried to persuade you to write some articles for us before (on advanced fixed income etc) but anyway if you ever fancy doing some sort of anonymous explanation of how the industry operates that could be interesting too… 😉

  • 207 Snowman May 7, 2020, 8:45 am

    @ Mcjocko

    The link to the Ivor Cummins video on vitamin D on 27th April is

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXw3XqwSZFo

    And there are links in the description to his follow on video about vitamin D on 29th April and his more general 2014 vitamin D video.

    On the evidence side there is a lot of vitamin D deficiency about and a recent fairly obscure study showed there is a massive 10 x association between low vitamin D levels and covid-19 severity of outcomes (even when you adjust for the confounders of age, sex and comorbidities).

    The question mark is whether taking a vitamin D3 supplement to ‘artificially’ increase your vitamin D level confers you some of the benefits of those ‘associations’ or whether vitamin D level is just a marker of other things.

    But at that level of confounder adjusted association, I feel happy that my mum has been taking a vitamin D3 supplement for some months. Ideally she’d get her vitamin D levels measured and add in supplements to lifestyle to top it up to sufficient levels.

    Ivor does mention (in the 29th April video at 9 mins 50 secs) one human study that looked at vitamin D supplementation in relation to influenza so limited as the evidence is, supplementation MAY confer a benefit.

    It would be nice to think they would do a randomised control trial with vitamin D3 supplementation, following how many subsequently died of covid-19, although by the time the results were known the epidemic might be nearly over.

    But vitamin D3 isn’t a patented drug, so cynical hat on, and perhaps because of the time issues, the trial won’t be done.

    I found it interesting that two studies showed remdesivir didn’t statistically improve mortality outcomes for covid-19, although the Gilead trial supposedly reduced the recovery time, although the data hadn’t been published. And now they are trying to claim in America that it would be unethical to do a further RCT trial because it would be depriving the control group of remdesivir. Of course that is an acute treatment rather than a preventative measure. But if you are wary of Big Pharma, that won’t impress you.

    On a personal note, my signed Ivor Cummins’ book is out on loan to a friend who was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. He’s understood the science in the book and adjusted his lifestyle and nutrition, and has now got his blood sugars well under control. He’s lost a lot of weight and feels better than ever. There are lots of n=1 experiences going on, to add on to the evidence.

    Usual caveat: don’t listen to me, do your own research, and have an open mind

  • 208 Snowman May 7, 2020, 2:25 pm

    Geneva antibody study

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.02.20088898v1

    Not looked at it closely. But seroprevalence roughly 3%, 6% and 9% in week 1, 2 and 3 of the study respectively

  • 209 ZXSpectrum48k May 7, 2020, 7:47 pm

    Fed funds futures went negative today. The Fed chairman Powell has consistently pushed back against negative rates. The market knows, however, the Fed will throw the kitchen sink at the problem so nothing can be fully discounted. Whatever it takes.

    On the other side of the Atlantic, the 10-year Gilt is 0.23%. All that new bond issuance in the pipeline and all the market did was shrug and buy some more Gilts.

    So we seem to have bonds rallying and stocks rallying. Is there meant to be a problem out there? Asset portfolios seems to doing just fine but I’m sure I heard something about a nasty virus and massive global contraction of GDP …

  • 210 MrOptimistic May 8, 2020, 11:16 am

    The political atmosphere seems also to be getting more febrile and the possibility of a mistep by the US, UK, EU or anyone inbetween has to be a risk. The money has to go somewhere and I think quality bonds the least unattractive of the ugly sisters. Wil e coyote will look down sooner or later.

  • 211 Vanguardfan May 8, 2020, 12:23 pm

    If you are interested in a more thorough comparison of international policy responses, this is a very interesting resource:
    https://covidtracker.bsg.ox.ac.uk/stringency-scatter

  • 212 The Investor May 8, 2020, 1:05 pm

    @Vanguardfan — Thanks, but I’m finding it hard to draw much out of that tool. If you set it from January 1st to May 8th you see nearly all countries have a fairly stringent response and cases roughly distributed in a band.

    I’m not a data visualisation expert, but I think it needs some sort of ‘weighted stringency’ visualizer/option? That way we could see whether more stringent/faster stringency resulted in fewer cases.

    Of course this tool meets other needs, such as handily collating different countries’ responses in one place.

  • 213 Vanguardfan May 8, 2020, 1:51 pm

    well I was thinking more in terms of checking out our impressions of whether a country in fact has has ‘extreme’ lockdown or ‘no lockdown’ ….you can actually look at the detail of which measures are in place, country by country. I agree that there’s not a great deal of variation at present, with most countries still on maximum stringency, although a visualisation in the FT based on this tool does pull out that the UK and Germany are similarly stringent, and less stringent than Italy and Spain.

  • 214 ZXSpectrum48k May 8, 2020, 3:28 pm

    @Vanguardman. Your link produces what I expected. Take Australia and the UK. The UK lags Australia in terms of stringency through late Feb/early Mar. The UK overtakes Australia in terms of stringency on Mar 23. On April 27, the UK disappears off the chart as the numbers of cases are so far in excess of Australia that the chart can’t cope (despite a log scale!).

    So by acting a month earlier, Australia gets a vastly better result. Less stringent domestic lockdown and far less cases (nevermind deaths) per capita that the UK. Well done UK.

  • 215 Tony Edgecombe May 8, 2020, 3:28 pm

    Interestingly Goldman Sachs is forecasting disposable income will be up in the second half of the year in the US:

    https://twitter.com/cullenroche/status/1258409000615309312?s=20

  • 216 Jonathan May 8, 2020, 4:48 pm

    In a video group chat last night, a solicitor friend reported that the employment law department (which she works in) currently has the highest workload it has ever had. At the beginning of lockdown they had a number of established clients wanting to clarify correct procedure for furloughing staff, but it is now all about making redundancies.

    I can’t decide whether that is telling us that the economy is about to collapse completely, or whether those companies are trying to get all their Covid hit out of the way so that once things pick up they have a reduced cost base and can plan a growth trajectory which keeps investors etc happy.

  • 217 Madflier May 8, 2020, 5:02 pm

    I think, with the best will in the world, you can call that a correlation, but not necessarily causation.

    Cornwall has one of the lowest rates of infection on the UK, despite mostly ignoring lockdown. Lovely surfing sessions last week, plenty of folk out with me. Busy beaches, plenty of lock-ins going on if you know where to look. But, intrinsically low density population, and far from a transport hub. How does that compare with London, with the same “stringent lockdown restrictions”? Well, the answer is that it doesn’t really, does it.

    The UK situation is almost certainly by far the worst in Europe because of half term skiing followed by the success of Heathrow and Birmingham transportation hubs.

    Whatever you then do is hampered by the situation that you already find yourself in.

    And if you think lockdown is either strict, or effective, look at how slowly case numbers are falling. We still have significant amounts of transmission, right now, despite all the lockdown strategies.

    Does this mean stopping lockdown will be disastrous? Does it mean that it will make no difference? No! It doesn’t mean either of these things. We really can’t tell, without good data about how many of the population have been infected, and what the pattern is.

    The correct response almost certainly would be to release lockdown for a fixed period, and then reinstate it, ideally before too many infection cycles have taken place. And then see what happened.

    But this is probably too complicated for the current administration to conceptualise, let alone communicate.

  • 218 The Investor May 8, 2020, 5:56 pm

    I have predicted a few times that negative health consequences from full lockdown will emerge over the years, but sadly we’re potentially seeing some upfront:

    About 8,000 more people have died in their own homes since the start of the coronavirus pandemic than in normal times, a Guardian analysis has found, as concerns grow over the number avoiding going to hospital.

    Of that total, 80% died of conditions unrelated to Covid-19, according to their death certificates. Doctors’ leaders have warned that fears and deprioritisation of non-coronavirus patients are taking a deadly toll.

    The data shows 8,196 more deaths at home in England, Wales and Scotland compared with the five-year average for this time of year, including 6,546 non-Covid deaths. It also indicates a drop in non-Covid deaths in hospital, however, leading experts to conclude that many who would ordinarily have been admitted to a ward and died there are instead dying at home.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/08/more-people-dying-at-home-during-covid-19-pandemic-uk-analysis

    Of course as with Covid-19 recorded deaths of the already mortally ill, many (most?) of these people may would presumably have died in hospital, too, perhaps within days.

  • 219 Vanguardfan May 8, 2020, 6:10 pm

    @TI. I think you have to be careful about ascribing these non covid at home deaths to ‘lockdown’. There are at least four possible explanations:
    1. That the deaths are caused by ‘lockdown’, as you have assumed (but how? Do people think they aren’t allowed out to seek medical help? What’s the mechanism that you think is at work here?)
    2. That people have been unable, or unwilling, to seek help because NHS resources have been diverted away from non covid activity. Either they’ve tried to seek help and failed – that would include cancelled cancer treatments, and terminally ill or very frail people deliberately not admitted to hospital – or they believe that they will be sparing the NHS by not seeking help.
    3. That coronavirus has contributed to these deaths but not been recognised as such (given our low testing rates, there will be some of these)
    4. That people are afraid to seek help because they think they may catch covid in hospital (a rational fear).

    2, 3, and 4 are consequences of the coronavirus epidemic, they are not consequences of the lockdown policy. More covid cases would make these factors worse. The lockdown is designed to reduce covid cases (and seems to have been successful). The diversion of NHS resources was a strategy designed to cope with the influx of cases and nothing to do with distancing measures.

  • 220 Ruby May 8, 2020, 6:32 pm

    @ Jonathan – I’m a NED of a small tech business – small being ebit of ~ £700k p.a.
    We’re estimating that monthly revenue from April to end September will be down 75%. We’re then guessing it’ll return quite sharply so that come the year end will be ~ break even. On the basis that may well be a little optimistic we have taken out a lot of cost, deferred capex, furloughed where sensible and laid off some overseas staff, who hopefully, we will rehire in due course. If it turns out to be way too optimistic we’ll have to start looking at headcount but we haven’t been troubling the employment lawyers yet. You’re right though, should revenue return faster than we expect the business is pretty lean and will be expect to be healthily profitable pretty quickly. The government assistance available is helping – paye & vat deferral, loans etc means we are awash with cash – for now!

  • 221 Richard May 8, 2020, 6:35 pm

    Anecdotally, there is some knock on impact. Take baby services. The usual weigh ins and measurements are not really happening. When someone does come they are doing the minimum with one eye on the door. If you ring with an issue you are asked to go to A and E so now you are weighing up if it is serious enough to take the risk of going to A and E. Ask to see the GP instead and eventually they agree (babies not so easy to look at over zoom) but are worned that they will be wearing hazmat suits so dont be alarmed. Must be very tough for first timers who don’t know what they are doing. I do wonder how many are not feeding properly and not being picked up until it has already had an impact…. Though being a baby you are much more likely to be pushy so maybe it won’t actaully result in any issues

  • 222 The Investor May 8, 2020, 7:54 pm

    @Vanguard — Yes, those are fair points. I do tend to conflate the two overly readily / emphatically. However I’m sure there is some crossover.

    Remember, I wasn’t against full lockdown for a few weeks, and I’m not against general ongoing social/physical distancing in general. What I’m against is the hysterical we’re-all-going-to-die branding, which I (and now countless others) have contrasted with people lazily drinking beers in Stockholm, and seeing so far at least no worse results. (Yes, many factors. Yes, other countries are doing much better. But that’s the point, it’s complicated).

    Is someone more likely to have sought and then received superior non-Covid related healthcare in Sweden than the UK over the past two months? I can’t prove it of course, but I’m overwhelmingly confident that’s so.

  • 223 Hospitaller May 8, 2020, 10:52 pm

    Thanks. The tilt towards equity income is actually just how I approach equity investing and is not related to a need to take an income.

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