Coronavirus: why aren’t death rates rising with case numbers?

For much of the past two months, many people have been convinced that mortality associated with COVID-19 would rise as the number of people testing positive with the disease increased. By late summer 2020, the UK government had finally managed to produce a consistent definition of precisely what constitutes a positive case of coronavirus. It is defined as a person with at least one lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 test result (individuals who tested positive more than once are only counted once, on the date of their first positive test).The main reasons why we know that the number of deaths has not been rising is that the actual number of cases in the population has not been rising when measured per million people tested. There is growing concern of younger people passing the disease to older people, but if a young person has had the disease, and is then very unlikely to have it in future, their chance of passing it on to an older person in future is much diminished. The final graph below tries to illustrate just how far away from that point we are, but how we have clearly been moving towards it over the course of the past two months.

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