New tool predicts risk of Covid hospitalisation, death

PARIS (AFP) – The five per cent of people in Britain predicted by a new tool to be at highest risk from Covid-19 accounted for three-quarters of deaths during the first wave of the pandemic, researchers reported yesterday.

As countries worldwide grapple with a second wave of disease, the risk-assessment method – which also predicts the chances of hospitalisation – could help identify the small percentage of the population most in need of being shielded from the virus, they reported in BMJ, a medical journal.

“The tool provides nuanced information on people’s risk of serious illness due to Covid-19 and is designed for use by clinicians with patients to reach a shared understanding of risk,” the authors said in a statement.

To develop the new application, called QCOVID, researchers from across Britain compiled data from six million patients, including age, height-weight ratio, ethnicity, and pre-existing conditions – such as high-blood pressure and diabetes – known to increase the risk of serious outcomes after infection.

They then tested the approach on 2.2 million patients – most of whom did not have Covid-19 – to see how well it predicted hospitalisation and deaths during two periods, late January to the end of April, and May 1 to June 30.

More than three-quarters of those who died from the virus were in the top five per cent of those predicted to be at maximum risk.

While the tool effectively profiled those facing the worst odds, it did not identify which factors caused fatal outcomes, the researchers cautioned.

It also only identified risk relative to other members of society but not the absolute risk of severe illness or death, which can change depending on infection rates and precautionary measures such as social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing.