SIR – I’m sure we’ve all seen the comments on social media comparing Covid-19 to flu, ebola, cancer, murder, suicide and any number of other causes of death, and shrugging off Covid-19 as nothing by comparison.

I wish those quoting such statistics would show a little common sense, and rather than simply throwing out that x million people died from flu last year, or x thousands died from cancer or were murdered etc – that those people would actually look at the numbers behind those figures.

In the first instance, comparing cancer deaths or murders to Covid cases is meaningless – they’re entirely unrelated, and thus incomparable.

Secondly, in the case of flu, they’re comparing the numbers of deaths from a historical, finished event.

Covid is a developing, unfinished situation, that will undoubtedly change yet further.

Finally, the numbers of infections or deaths for seasonal flu or Covid are incomparable unless you look at infection and mortality rates.

If we take seasonal flu, it has an ‘infectiousness’ (the R0 number) of around 1.3 (World Health Organisation).

Covid is still being identified, but is around 2.8 (WHO), so is more infectious than seasonal flu.

As for mortality rates, flu kills far less than one per cent of those infected (WHO).

Covid kills around 3.4 per cent of those infected with it (WHO).

That means, that if (emphasis on if), as many people catch Covid as those who catch flu (which is harder to catch than Covid-19), the number of deaths will exceed those caused by seasonal flu.

That’s what global health organisations and other involved professionals are worried about. That’s what we’re preparing for, what we’re trying to prevent.

It’s not the situation now – it’s the situation next week, next month, in six months’ time and beyond.

By all means, avoid panic, try to keep other people from panicking, and don’t contribute to it, but please, be realistic and sensible, rather than using incomparable examples.

Shrugging off the seriousness of this situation is as socially irresponsible as over-blowing it and encouraging people to panic buy 500 toilet rolls.

Mike O’Sullivan