As I said in an earlier post, there were 6082 deaths more than the five-year average for week 14, yet there were only 3475 deaths recorded in the Covid-19 (either from or with) category for week 14. So where did those two-and-a-half thousand deaths come from? Is Covid-19 being under-reported, or are there extra deaths that are being caused by the lockdown, or a bit of both?
There is a section on the ONS weekly deaths spreadsheet that deals with place of death. Here’s a snip of the figures (click to enlarge):
Compared to the previous month we’ve got an increase in hospital deaths of about 2800, an increase in home deaths by about 1100, and an increase in care home deaths of about 1300. Everywhere else (including hospices) looks about the same or only a bit higher.
The extra hospital deaths seem to be explained by the extra Covid-19 numbers in hospitals, as they are roughly similar. Last month there were 5105 deaths in hospitals (in England and Wales), this month there were 7884, an increase of 2679. But Covid-19 deaths in hospitals increased from 510 to 3110, an increase of 2609. So the extra hospital deaths were likely to have been Covid-19 deaths.
What about the extra care home deaths? Hardly any care home deaths are classed as Covid-19 deaths. There were 3769 deaths in care homes in week 14 (up from 2489 last month, so an increase of 1280), but only 195 of those 3769 deaths were classed as Covid-19 deaths. I think most likely that most of these extra deaths are down to Covid-19, and that Covid-19 in these cases is being underreported. Dr Malcom Kendrick has a blog post supporting this view here.
As I mentioned earlier, in one care home that I visit, they recently had eight deaths in seven days. Were these COVID deaths? Who knows for sure. No-one was tested. No-one is tested. The staff are not tested. I have patients who have died quickly. What do I put on the death certificate? COVID? Well I cannot, not really, because I have no idea if they had COVID or not.
It seems clear that many, many, COVID deaths in care homes will not even be registered as COVID deaths, so the figures are almost certainly worse here than are being reported.
Most of these deaths will be, however, people who were on their last legs anyway. Covid-19 just weakened them and finished them off, in the way that the flu, or even a cold, can. Not that makes it any better for them or their loved ones, I wish they could have had some extra time in their life. Unfortunately we can expect a lot more of this in the next few weeks, as Covid-19 has got into a lot of care homes, so a lot of people near the end of their lives are going to have their lives shortened.
Things are much murkier with the increased deaths in homes, though. (Not care homes, homes as in where people live.) We had 3865 deaths at home in week 14, up from 2786 in week 13, so that’s an increase of 1079. But there were only 120 deaths out of that 3865 that were classed as Covid-19 deaths. I expect some of these deaths were caused by Covid-19 finishing some people off without it even being obvious that the person had Covid-19, but we don’t have much hard evidence, as far as I’m aware, as to how many people will be in this category.
But it is a concern that maybe the lockdown itself is killing people, people who are taken seriously ill but who don’t want to go to hospital because they’ve been told to stay away, or who think hospital will be worse for them because they’ll catch Covid-19 there. This is not just pure speculation on my part, this is the concern of A&E chiefs and senior medics too:
The coronavirus crisis has led to a sharp rise in the number of seriously ill people dying at home because they are reluctant to call for an ambulance, doctors and paramedics have warned.
Minutes of a remote meeting held by London A&E chiefs last week obtained by the Guardian reveal that dozens more people than usual are dying at home of a cardiac arrest – potentially related to coronavirus – each day before ambulance crews can reach them.
And as the chair of the Royal College of GPs said that doctors were noticing a spike in the number of people dying at home, paramedics across the country said in interviews that they were attending more calls where patients were dead when they arrived.
The A&E chiefs’ minutes said that on the weekend of 4-5 April the number of 999 calls in which someone had had a cardiac arrest rose from 55 a day in normal times to 140. Most of the people concerned died, doctors said.
The minutes also reveal acute concern among senior medics that seriously ill patients are not going to A&E or dialling 999 because they are afraid or do not wish to be a burden.
“People don’t want to go near hospital,” the document said. “As a result salvageable conditions are not being treated.”
The figures are extraordinary. In Week 14 of 2019, there were close to 160,000 emergency admissions to English hospitals (which was a higher-than-average number). In Week 14 of this year there were around 60,000.
Sure a lot of A&E cases are drunks on a Saturday night who’ve managed to hurt themselves, but 100 000 less? Over 60% less people coming in? You only need a small proportion of that 100 000 — 1% to be precise — to be cases of serious illness where the person dies because they didn’t come in for there to be 1000 deaths caused by the lockdown.
Update: I’m still working through graphs and other stuff that people have sent me, thanks for all that. Thanks also to recent readers who have been buying my book, and those who have sent some money my way via Kofi and Patreon, it is greatly appreciated, I’m putting all this research in for nothing.
Update 2: A worrying news story (from the comments) about how scared care home workers are fleeing care homes and leaving residents to die. I haven’t heard any reports of this happening in the UK, but at least in Canada and some parts of Europe we can say that Covid-19 hysteria is killing people in care homes.
The deaths in Canada were discovered late last week at Résidence Herron, a private home for seniors in Montreal, after the local health authority, alarmed by staff shortages and the spread of coronavirus at the home, took control of the residence.
They found dehydrated residents lying listless in bed, unfed for days, with excrement seeping out of their diapers.
“I’d never seen anything like it in my 32-year nursing career,” said Loredana Mule, a nurse on the team. “It was horrific — there wasn’t enough food to feed people, the stench could’ve killed a horse.”
After she left the home, she said, she collapsed in her car and wept.
A skeleton staff of two nurses had been left to care for a private residence with nearly 150 beds, she said. The remaining staff had fled amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, leaving patients, some paralyzed or with other chronic illnesses, to fend for themselves.
Also in the story:
“In Spain, soldiers sent to disinfect nursing homes found people abandoned, or even dead, in their beds.”