Non-Covid deaths are also rising. It's time to ask why

29 April 2020

2:05 AM

29 April 2020

2:05 AM

Today’s excess death figures are shocking, but they are perhaps even worse when you consider how many are not linked to Covid-19. The below chart shows the number of weekly deaths for the last ten years, stripping out those with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate. You can see the spike.

Taking today’s ONS figures for excess deaths – that is, deaths over and above what you’d expect to see for this time of year – you can see a significant chunk of them in the week to 17 April do not involve Covid-19.

This is the third week of this trend. On a cumulative basis, non-Covid deaths – broken down by region – are as follows: the Midlands, 1,600. London, the North West and the South East, 1,200 each. The East of England, 1,000. The North East and Yorkshire, 800. The South West, 600. Wales, almost 200.

Is this just undiagnosed Covid? There will obviously be an under-reporting of cases – but as Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson has said, as many of two-thirds of ‘Covid deaths’ would have happened anyway – if so, most ‘Covid deaths’ will be due to other causes. This is something that needs further investigation. We know that thousands were moved out of hospitals and into far-worse-equipped care homes in the run-up to the Covid peak. We also know that 40,000 hospital beds are empty, four times more than is normal for this time of year. What’s happening to patients who’d normally be treated in those beds?

The Spectator’s daily Covid email, which looks at data as well as news and research, also ran this graph yesterday showing the sharp fall in people going to emergency care in hospitals:

The figures for those seeking hospital for chest pain, too, have also halved. An element of this might may be people not seeking acute care if they don’t need it. But part of it will be people taking the “stay at home, protect the NHS” advice in the wrong way. They may be reluctant to get things checked out – and will end up more ill because they’re not seeking care that can help them at an earlier stage. It’s worth keeping a very close eye on.

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