COVID-19: 7-day average of deaths 44% higher than a year ago

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Hungarian authorities diagnosed 12,165 people with COVID-19, and 185 people died of coronavirus-related diseases over the past 24 hours, the official government portal reported on Thursday morning. Daily fatalities reached a new record but this 'wave' is far from being over and the figures suggest there could be up to three times as many deaths per day as soon as three weeks from now. 6,858 people with coronavirus infection are in hospital, with 680 of them on ventilator.
oltás vakcina fecskendő harmadik oltás koronavírus covid-19 negyedik hullám
Let's start with our usual snapshot. The daily figures we used previously have been changed to 7-day averages to make comparison smoother and more accurate.

This 'wave' of the coronavirus pandemic became 'deadlier' than the one a year ago on Monday (Tuesday report). Note that this refers only to data published by the official government website koronavirus.gov.hu. The actual mortality figure is a lot higher.

This time last year, the death toll reported by the Central Statistics Office (KSH) was double of the figure released by the Coronavirus Task Force. By April the former reached 17,900 which compared with 9,700 reported by the task force.

Based on the number of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases we have presented a simple model by which we can estimate how many daily Covid deaths we could have in 20 days. The updated projections are in the table below.

It is a generally accepted and proven fact worldwide that the number of COVID-19 fatalities tracks changes in the number of daily new confirmed cases with a cc. 20-day delay. The model is exceedingly simple: we divide the number of new cases reported today (for the previous day) with the number of daily cases reported 20 days earlier, and multiply this figure with the number of deaths reported today. That should be roughly the number of deaths authorities will report 20 days from now.

How can we check that this is not a bad model? Again, simple. Just take a look at the facts. How do the number of deaths 20 days ago compare with the number of deaths today? What is the multiplier in that case? Is it close to the multiplier we are using now to estimate the number of deaths 20 days ahead?

Let's see: 83 deaths on 4 November compared with 185 deaths reported for 24 November: 185 / 83 = 2.23. The multiplier used today was 1.79, so based on the actual change in the number of deaths over the past 20 days, 331 deaths projected for 14 December is a highly conservative estimate. With a 2.23 multiplier we would get 412 deaths forecasted for 14 Dec.

Let's apply the same verification for the 7-day averages. 151 / 65 = 2.33. The multiplier came in lower than the current 2.43, at 2.33, which would imply a 7-day average mortality of 352 for 14 Dec.

Note that these are all mortality data to be reported by the official government portal. The mortality stats of the Central Statistical Office (KSH) to be published (several months) later will show a lot more deaths. Needless to say, there is no way to forecast the number of Covid deaths with pinpoint accuracy, but these forecasts should at least give us an idea of what is to come.

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Key metrics keep worsening - 2021 vs. 2020

The tables below show how the changes in the number of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and the number of ventilated Covid patients in 2021 and 2020. From the comparison of daily figures we have switched to lining up 7-day averages. This is to avoid distortions caused by comparing weekdays with weekend days when authorities do not publish statistics, and the aggregate data released on Mondays have to be distributed for three days with a certain methodology.

In the top chart we compared the figures of 24 November to one, two, three, and four weeks earlier. The second chart shows the week-on-week changes. The red cells make it evident that the epidemiological situation has been worsening at a more alarming rate in almost every aspect than in the base period.

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How is the situation in hospitals?

The number of Covid patients admitted to hospitals and needing mechanical ventilation has been on the rise for a while now, and they are already at late April levels.

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On the charts below the 0% line is important. When the curves are under 0% there’s a decline, when they go over 0% it’s an increase. The changes show that the situation in terms of hospitalisations started to worsen after 20 August.

More importantly, when a value is north of 0% but the curve descends, it means an increase at a slowing rate, rather than a decrease. If the curve is above 0% and ascending, it is an increase at an accelerating rate. When we are under 0% and the curve goes lower, it translates into an accelerating decrease, and when it goes up it marks a decelerating decrease.

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As you can see, the number of those in hospital and of those on ventilator grow almost fully synchronously, apart from a period between mid-September and end-October. In that period there was not enough room for Covid patients and that is why there were many on ventilator relative to the number of Covid patients hospitalised. Then Covid capacities were added to the system and the 'link' was back the way it was before.

The same can be observed at the charts below, only with ratios. The share of those in hospital to the number of active cases has come down from its peak because daily testing picked up, and while there are more and more people with coronavirus infection in hospital, the number of active cases has been growing at a higher rate. And the ventilated / in hospital ratio has also come lower and steadied due to the aforementioned reason.

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The comparison of the current situation to the one a year ago in terms of Covid fatalities per days spent in hospital and in ICUs also shows a widening gap in the former (2.15% in 2021 vs. 1.54% in 2020) and a reverse in the latter (19.91% on 24 Nov 2021 vs. 19.50% on 24 Nov 2020), i.e. the situation is already worse than a year ago in this respect, as well.

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Vaccination campaign in progress

The government launched a one-week vaccination campaign on Monday where Hungarians only need to show up and take a jab, without prior online registration or booking an appointment in advance. The campaign was actually announced two and half weeks earlier, and a waiting period this long is incomprehensible. A total of 131,000 doses of five different COVID-19 vaccines were administered yesterday, which certainly gives a boost to the lacklustre pace of new vaccinations, but the results will be palpable only in the 'fifth wave' of the coronavirus pandemic, not in this one.

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Cover photo: MTI/Attila Kovács

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