Covid deaths

U.K. Records Just Seven Covid Deaths – Down 75% in a Week

Coronavirus deaths in the U.K. have fallen by three-quarters after just seven deaths were revealed today. MailOnline has more.

While last Saturday 15 people in the UK died of coronavirus, today the Government announced seven deaths, demonstrating a steady decline in fatalities.

It comes after Office for National Statistics data suggested the total number of infections is lower than at any point since early September and infections have been falling constantly for five weeks.

Experts said the data “should be celebrated” and were the first proof that, despite the reopening of outdoor hospitality and allowing the rule of six earlier this month, there was still “no evidence of an increased transmission risk”.

Worth reading in full.

Small Proportion of Vaccinated People Have Died Of Covid – and Most Caught the Virus before the Vaccine Could Have Taken Effect

NHS data shows that only a very small proportion of people who have received a Covid vaccine have been admitted to hospital with the virus and died. Around 70% of these people caught Covid before the vaccine would be expected to work, according to a new study, and many were also elderly and frail. The Guardian has the story.

A small number of people vaccinated against Covid have been admitted to hospital with the disease and died, researchers have found, but most were frail and elderly and caught the virus before the jab could have taken effect.

Scientists say their findings are reassuring. They bear out the conclusions of trials of the vaccines in use in the U.K., which show the jabs are highly effective but do not protect everyone.

The ISARIC/Co-CIN study was designed to give the Government’s scientific advisory body, SAGE, an early signal of whether or not the vaccines were working. 

“We’re saying that the vaccine does work. In fact, this is good real-world evidence of it working, but there are some few failures. And when these failures do occur, sadly, people die, but that’s because they’re elderly and frail,” said Professor Calum Semple, a Co-Lead of ISARIC (International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium).

More than 52,000 people were admitted to hospital with Covid in England, Scotland and Wales between December 8th and March 10th. Of those, 3,842 had been vaccinated. The researchers had information on the date of the first dose of vaccine for 3,598 of them and information on the date of a second dose for 140.

The vaccines would not be expected to work fully until three weeks after they were given, said Dr Annemarie Docherty, an Honorary Consultant in Critical Care at the University of Edinburgh. Most of those admitted post-vaccination were infected just before or in the couple of weeks after receiving their jab. The median time from vaccination to symptoms in the study was 15 days.

“Around 71% of the vaccinated patients that we have in hospital in Isaric developed their symptoms before the vaccine would be expected to work,” she said. “So we’re really only talking about 29% of these patients where we would have hoped the vaccine to prevent hospital admission.”

A total of 526 patients out of 52,000 (1%) had been vaccinated more than three weeks before they developed Covid symptoms and were hospitalised. Of those, 113 died. Most of them (97) were in the two highest risk categories, so frail, elderly or otherwise highly vulnerable.

Worth reading in full.

22 Million Brits Are Living In Areas That Have Seen Zero Covid Deaths in a Month

Fear of Covid may not be subsiding in the U.K., but the virus is. New Government data shows that a third of Britain has seen zero Covid deaths so far in the month of April. Some areas have gone even longer without reporting a single Covid death – 57 days in Plymouth and two whole months in Oxford and Maidstone. MailOnline has the story.

Around 22 million people are living in areas across the U.K. where there have been no Covid deaths so far in April, official figures revealed today. 

Data from the Government’s Covid dashboard suggests the threat of the virus has almost been eradicated in a third of the country, despite everyone still being subjected to harsh lockdown restrictions. 

It marks a seismic shift from the U.K.’s dire situation in January at the height of the second wave, when fewer than 50,000 Britons were in places with zero coronavirus victims during that month.

Analysis by BBC News shows some areas have gone even longer than a month without reporting a Covid death – Plymouth last recorded one 57 days ago and Oxford and Maidstone, in Kent, have gone two months.

The statistics, which go up to April 29th, show fewer than 600 deaths within 28 days of a positive test have been reported this month, compared with more than 30,000 throughout the same period in January.

More than half (56%) of local authorities in Scotland haven’t yet recorded a virus fatality this April, with only Glasgow posting more than nine so far.

In England 44% of authorities are yet to record one. The areas are scattered all over the country, showing how the situation is improving everywhere and is not limited to certain regions…

England faces at least seven more weeks of restrictions. June 21st has been earmarked as the earliest possible date that most curbs can be lifted. The rest of the U.K. has yet to announce when it will drop measures.

Given the waning of Covid across much of the U.K., along with the success of the vaccine rollout and the damage which continues to be inflicted on so many aspects of our lives because of lockdown, how can the Government continue to justify the implementation of lockdown measures until June 21st (at the earliest)?

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

How Many Covid Deaths Are Really Due to COVID-19?

The Telegraph‘s front page led today with the story that nearly a quarter of deaths (23%) registered “with Covid” in the latest official data for England and Wales were not “due to Covid” but were due to another underlying cause, according to the information entered on the death certificate. This percentage is up on earlier figures. The same figure for the original wave up to August 31st in England and Wales was just 8% (4,159 out of 52,327).

However, there is good reason to think both figures are too low. A Freedom of Information enquiry (pictured below) found that for Northern Ireland, the proportion of deaths that mentioned Covid but identified an antecedent condition (or conditions) as the cause of death for the period March 1st to November 20th was 38% (494 out of 1,301).

Why would Covid be the underlying cause of 62% of Covid deaths in Northern Ireland but 92% in England and Wales for broadly the same period? It wouldn’t, of course. The difference is how the deaths are recorded.

One reason may be because doctors in England and Wales were given a stronger steer to record Covid as the underlying cause of death. The British Medical Association told doctors early in the pandemic:

In those cases where the doctor is confident on medical grounds that a particular cause of death is likely then that should be entered on the MCCD [death certificate]. COVID-19 is an acceptable direct or underlying cause of death for the purposes of completing the MCCD, even without the results of a positive test, and it is important that likely COVID-19 deaths are reported as such via the registrar.

No similar guidance appears to exist for Northern Ireland.

Even 38% may be too low, however. A review by a county in Sweden in August found that 85% of the 122 Covid deaths investigated were due to a different underlying cause.

The Östergötland region has examined all deaths that have died at home or in special housing with confirmed COVID-19. Records from 122 people have been reviewed, which is 51% of the 240 people who had died in the county when the review was done.

The cause of death in the cause of death certificate has been COVID-19, but the review shows that other diseases may have contributed or been the decisive cause of death – for example, heart disease, lung disease or dementia.

111 of the deceased outside the hospital had extensive comorbidity and 11 moderate comorbidity. Half were 88 years or older.

COVID-19 was estimated to be the direct cause of death in 15% of deaths. For a majority of the deceased – as many as 70% – COVID-19 was a contributing factor rather than a direct cause. In 15%, the cause of death was judged to be other diseases, then most often heart disease.

The definition of a “Covid death” has been a consistent issue throughout the crisis, with the Government even knocking thousands of deaths off the running total in August after changing the definition following criticism. It has been frequently observed that different standards have been applied to Covid deaths than to other similar diseases – a frail elderly person who died with an acute respiratory condition such as influenza would not, prior to the pandemic, usually have had influenza recorded as the underlying cause of death, whereas Covid will often be recorded as such in similar circumstances. This novel practice has inflated the pandemic death toll and fed the narrative of fear.

Overall death totals (from all causes) are generally a much better guide to the impact of the pandemic – though even there deaths due to interventions become mixed up with the Covid deaths. Trying to get to the bottom of the true Covid death toll will not be an easy task at all.