Thursday 30 April 2020

Day 45 of self-isolation - more excess deaths

Excess deaths

If you take the average number of deaths at this time of year over the last five years, you can compare that with the current numbers. If the current numbers are a lot bigger, those are called "excess deaths".

What's the cause? The obvious cause is Covid-19. But there are subtleties. First, the road usage is a lot lower, so traffic collision deaths are lower. In the UK, that would be about five people per day, and when you compare that with the Covid-19 deaths, it's a drop in the bucket. So that won't make much difference, even if road deaths drop to zero.

But there's also heart attacks, strokes and other serious conditions that would, in normal times, send you straight to hospital. It might be that such cases are reluctant to go to hospital, not realising how severe their problem is, because of fear of infection. We don't know. But we can still say that these deaths add to the "butcher's bill" that the virus has, indirectly, caused.

So how big are these numbers? Very big. Very big indeed. Firstly, let's note that although we're getting Covid-19 numbers day by day, the overall death numbers are only available a few weeks after they happen. So we can't look at current numbers, only at the recent past, a few weeks ago. And we can compare "excess deaths" with the reported Covid-19 numbers.

One major source of under-reporting, is elderly people in care homes. They die, they get buried, they don't appear in the statistics that come from the hospitals.

There's also a "cause of death" question. If the cause of death is given as "pneumonia" on the death certificate, then that wouldn't be recorded in the Covid-19 numbers. But maybe Covid-19 was a factor, and dead is dead. By looking at "excess deaths", we'll be including cases where it's uncertain what the last straw was.

Yale university did a study, looking at March to April 4. In the USA, excess deaths were 15,400, but at the same time, Covid-19 deaths were 8,128. So that's 90% more than the reported Covid-19 numbers.

The Financial Times has also done an analysis.

They checked 13 European countries, and found 122,000 excess deaths, compared with the official Covid-19 numbers of 77,000.

So in the USA, that raises the death count by 90%. In Europe, by 58%. In England and Wales, the number of excess deaths was also 58 per cent higher than the total number of reported Covid-19 deaths for the same period.

It's worse in cities. London's excess deaths bring the Covid-19 numbers up by 96%; New York by 300%. Madrid is 161% Bergamo (Italy) 463% and Ile-de-France, 122%

Conclusion - it isn't the top priority for doctors to count coffins, and many people are dying outside hospitals. The real number of deaths caused directly and indirectly by the pandemic, looks to be at least 50% more than the reported numbers.

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