The fine print in a statistical report on the Covid-19 crisis published today (March 30) shows that hundreds more are dead than the UK government previously admitted. (Correspondent.world told you so a week ago.)31 March 2020
By Paul Martin
Hundreds more people have died while affected by Corona Virus than the UK government has been revealing, an investigation by correspondent.world has revealed.
Official figures published today show that in just two weeks till March 20 nearly one-fifth more victims of Covid-19 died than were counted in the government figures released each day.
Statisticians assume this discrepancy will continue in the same ratio. That means that since the pandemic began to kill people in Britain, the deaths of 429 people will have been excluded from the total announced today, of 1,801. It should be 2,230.
And as the official death numbers increase each day, the number of ‘unreported’ deaths will climb.
The main reason for the figures being higher than declared is that — as admitted late yesterday by the de facto acting deputy prime minsiter Dominic Raab — official figures are only counting those who die in hospital and even then, only those who had previously been tested and found to have Covid-19.
The new government figures compare the hospital death toll with the overall number of death certificates showing Covid-19 as a cause of death.
An expert in mortality at the Office of National Statistics, Sarah Caul, told correspondent.world: “We expect the gap [in identifying and reporting deaths] is wider.”
The expert added: “We’re in uncharted territory. We have separate figures showing that nearly one-fifth of deaths are not certified by doctors.
“What we cannot quantify is the extent to which the current crisis means doctors are taking longer to sign death certificates.”
No testing for Covid-19 is done once a patient has died, and someone who is on the point of death when admitted to a hospital would usually also not be tested, doctors confirmed.
A senior coroner has also told correspondent.world that, being under such huge pressures, GPs are visiting sick patients languishing at home or care homes far more seldom.
“The GP will not necessarily have seen his patient at the last stages of the illness. So on any death certificate the doctor would often put the cause of death as some illness that the patient has already been diagnosed for, rather than speculate about whether he or she also had Covid-19,” the coroner said.
A senior doctor at an outer London hospital told correspondent.world: “If someone dies in our hospital and we have not established he had covid-19 we assume the pre-existing disease and do not write covid-19 down as a cause of death, whether primary or secondary.”
Also the statistics show that nearly one-fifth of all deaths registered in the country are not being certified by a doctor. And that will get worse. During the current extreme working conditions, doctors are not able to visit very ill patients at home as often as they used to.
“I estimate the true figure for those dying with corona virus is probably double the official statistic given to the general public,” one doctor told correspondent.world.
A senior coroner added: “The recent emergency legislation has actually made it much easier to issue a death certificate without necessarily knowing whether the patient had Covid-19 symptoms or not. A doctor would tend to go by the dead patient’s pre-existing condition.
“Under the new legislation, doctors can still issue a death certificate even if he or she has not seen the patient for 28 days before the patient dies, while till a week ago it was 14 days. And a doctor who sees a patient after death can issue a certificate allowing an immediate cremation.
“The safeguards promised after the Shipman mass murders were due to be passed in April this year. Now thanks to this crisis, that’s gone by the board, and the protections are still therefore not fully in place.”
All of the 393 who died in one day in a hospital ended their lives alone. No relatives of any patients and no friends are allowed in, before or after their loved one has died.
UK Government: Office of National Statistics, Mortality Chart
The government’s new figures showing hundreds more have died than the bland figures had first been showing, came about after correspondent.world set the cat among the pigeons.
We published our first story on the subject, stating that the official figures had “vastly underestimated” the death toll, on March 22, a full week before the government admission.
This was the email, sent a full four days before the more truthful figures emerged, that did seems to have obliged the government to come (relatively) clean:
To: Public Health England.
I hope you can tell us:
1. Are the figures announced by the Government for those who’ve died of Corona Virus (Covid-19) in the UK the total number who have died after having first been tested positive for the virus?
2. How does PHE receive this information – is it from each hospital, or is it from coroners?
3. Does the government have any way of calculating those who have died of the virus but who had not first been tested positive?
As we are very close to deadline, we hope the first question can be answered immediately as it is a simple yes or no… and then we understand, given the enormous pressure you must be under, that the answers to questions 2 and 3 may take a bit longer.