Fiona Thomas wrote about coronavirus (Letters, October 17), “yet we all know someone who has died or is suffering from cancer to a terminal level.”

Probably true. My mother died of cancer, and a very close relative is living with it.

He’s living because the NHS had the capacity three years ago to provide emergency surgery and chemotherapy.

With the NHS now so stretched by the coronavirus, I doubt if he would be that lucky if he needed urgent treatment today.

My point is that if we want to continue to provide effective treatment for cancer, it makes absolute sense to manage down the incidence of Covid-19 cases by reducing transmission, so reducing the stress on hospitals.

Ms Thomas also writes “This age group [30 to 45] has more chance of being struck by lightning than dying with Covid”. In fact this claim originated in June and was reported in the Sun newspaper, but with one crucial difference.

Their story was that school children – not adults aged 30-45 - were more likely to be struck by lightning than die of Covid-19.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, between 30 and 60 people are struck by lightning each year in Britain.

That’s roughly 1 in a million of the population. The latest data I can find for Covid-19 death rates in the UK is from the MRC Biostatics Unit at the University of Cambridge.

They estimate that for 25-44 year-olds, the death rate after catching the virus is 310 per million. Three hundred times the risk of being struck by lightning.

Overall the number of people who die after catching the virus is about 0.5%. Or one death in every 200 people infected. That is five to 25 times more deadly than a seasonal flu infection, so ongoing myths that Covid-19 is just like flu are just that - myths. In my age range the infection fatality rate is roughly 2% or one in 50. If I were a few years older, the rate would climb to 12%.

Which means that only seven out of eight people older than 75 who catch the virus will survive.

Yes, the social and economic impacts of managing the virus are significant. As are the health side-effects, like the disruption to cancer care and other non-Covid conditions, and the rising incidence of mental illness.

But trying to brush aside the seriousness of the virus and misusing statistics is not the way to manage these issues. Instead of sowing doubt and division, Ms Thomas might reflect that the best outcomes are achieved when society pulls together in a common purpose and people support each other.

Robert Palgrave
How Caple