The Real Number of Deaths

Yesterday marked the grim milestone of more than 20,000 hospital deaths due to covid-19 in the UK.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52424413

Sadly, this is only part of the figure. For a whole range of reasons, there are likely to be many more deaths than are included in the daily headline figure.

The Office of National Statistics provides regular weekly death counts for England and Wales. These are available on the ONS web site.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/weeklyprovisionalfiguresondeathsregisteredinenglandandwales

As well as the weekly total deaths, they also include the mean values for each week, averaged over the last five years. In the following graph I’ve plotted the difference between these two figures.

Up until 13 March, weekly deaths were running at or below the five year average. Then suddenly from 20 Mar onwards, covid-19 deaths start to appear. In the subsequent three weeks there is a cumulative excess of approximately 15,000 deaths above the previous five years average. The corresponding figures for Scotland are not yet available, but if we assume an additional 10% for Scotland, then the total excess deaths for the UK is likely to be around 16,000.

On 10 Apr, the cumulative total of hospital deaths from covid-19 was reported as just under 9,900. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_the_United_Kingdom#Statistics). Assuming that the bulk of the excess deaths reported by the ONS are due to covid-19, then the true number of covid-19 deaths is likely to be about 50% higher than the figures being quoted daily. This will also include patients who die as a result of not receiving the level of treatment they would normally receive. This seems to be consistent with WHO estimates and with the numbers being reported in several papers.

It’s worth keeping in mind, as we hear the gruesome daily figures, that the real figures are probably even worse.