Spiegelhalter says Covid-19 doesn’t explain the large number of recent deaths

There’s an explosive news article at the BMJ backing up what I, and many writers and commentators here have been saying, that a great many of the recent excess deaths have not been caused by Covid-19.

Covid-19: “Staggering number” of extra deaths in community is not explained by covid-19

Only a third of the excess deaths seen in the community in England and Wales can be explained by covid-19, new data have shown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data,1 which cover deaths in hospitals, care homes, private homes, hospices, and elsewhere, show that 6035 people died as a result of suspected or confirmed covid-19 infection in England and Wales in the week ending 1 May 2020 (where deaths were registered up to 9 May), a decline of 2202 from the previous week.

Although the number of deaths in care homes has fallen for the second week in a row, more covid related deaths are being reported in care homes than in hospitals and are tailing off more slowly.

However, David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said that covid-19 did not explain the high number of deaths taking place in the community.

At a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre on 21 May he explained that, over the past five weeks, care homes and other community settings had had to deal with a “staggering burden” of 30 000 more deaths than would normally be expected, as patients were moved out of hospitals that were anticipating high demand for beds.

Of those 30 000, only 10 000 have had covid-19 specified on the death certificate. While Spiegelhalter acknowledged that some of these “excess deaths” might be the result of underdiagnosis, “the huge number of unexplained extra deaths in homes and care homes is extraordinary. When we look back . . . this rise in non-covid extra deaths outside the hospital is something I hope will be given really severe attention.”

He added that many of these deaths would be among people “who may well have lived longer if they had managed to get to hospital.”

David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, agreed. “Some of these deaths may not have occurred if people had got to hospital,” he said. “How many is unclear. This issue needs urgent attention, and steps taken to ensure that those who would benefit from hospital treatment and care for other conditions can get it.”


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6 thoughts on “Spiegelhalter says Covid-19 doesn’t explain the large number of recent deaths

  1. ” At a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre on 21 May …. “. I knew you had god-like powers but being able to see 7 days into the future is seriously exciting.

  2. Given that the number of Covid deaths is probably inflated, the number of non-Covid deaths caused by the dystopia we’re in is surely higher than thought.

  3. In China, when someone dies, they have a funeral which in some ways sounds more like an old Irish wake minus the keening. For a rich person, the event can last for 3 days as people come to pay their respects, commiserate, eat together, and drink.

    However, if the person who has died is aged 80 years or older, the whole ceremony changes and becomes a celebration. The lucky deceased was one of the winners — he managed to have a long life before exiting this mortal coil.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves. Many of the people who enter care homes are very old, have major health issues, and are not expected to survive. Their quality of life is mostly very low. On another day, there could be a fruitful discussion about whether our putting old people into care homes reflects well or badly on our societies.

    We may think of ourselves as more advanced than the God-fearing peasants of earlier ages, but we mostly seem to be less prepared than prior generations to accept the undeniable fact of our own mortality. One thing for sure — the death of an unhealthy old person is not tragic in the way of the death of a young person who had his whole life ahead of him. Fortunately, we now know that C-19 rarely kills young people.

  4. You only need look at the RESUS Council / UK SAR and other agency updates to CPR/First aid and get a flavour of how having a sore throat before you have your heart attack/stroke will probably reduce you chances of life. Madness. Years of progress down the toilet.

  5. “the underlying cause of death”: people still don’t seem to grasp the large arbitrary element in reported causes of death especially of ill, old people.

    My father-in-law died from a hospital-acquired infection according to the Registrar who treated him. The Consultant, however, denied it and reported the cause as Old Age. We decided that since the old boy was at death’s door and had lost the will to live there was no point pursuing the business.

    This sort of ambiguity must be common. In other words, there will often be no “true” single cause of death. Hell, even the annual flu deaths reported are in fact estimated using a mathematical model.

    I’ll pay more attention to these sorts of discussion when there’s more sign of writers grasping the issue.

  6. “excess deaths not by Covid-19” as NHS & Dentists “Closed” eg
    – sepsis
    – meningitis
    – appendicitis
    – cancer, diabetes, kidney failure…
    – heart/stroke
    – tooth abscess
    – suicide

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