- A review will examine reports that officials were “over-exaggerating” the number of deaths from coronavirus.
- On July 17, the Health Secretary asked PHE to urgently investigate the way daily death statistics had been reported, leading PHE to say it was “pausing” the daily release.
- Under the previous system, anyone who has ever tested positive for the virus in England was automatically counted as a coronavirus death when they died, even if the death was from a car accident.
- Weekly rather than daily counts could help improve accuracy for future death counts, but could also make it harder to draw comparisons in the event of a second wave of the virus.
- Prof Carl Heneghan, director at Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, has called for a cut-off period for the way the death toll is calculated in England of 21 days.
- Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, reportedly holds the view that excess deaths are the best measure to use, which will be unaffected by the PHE review.
- Public Health England was miscounting coronavirus death, official review found.
- Could see up to 4,000 deaths removed from England’s official toll of 41,749, or 10 per cent.
- Ministers count victims as anyone who died after ever testing positive for Covid-19 — even if they were hit by a bus after beating the disease months later.
- The statistical flaw was uncovered by Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Yoon Loke, from the University of East Anglia.
- The Office for National Statistics, another Government agency, also records Covid-19 deaths, and is considered the most reliable source.
- The ONS — which is not affected by the counting method — has confirmed at least 51,596 people have died in England and Wales up to July 24.
- Around 58 Brits are now succumbing to the life-threatening infection each day, on average.
- The deaths data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.
- Department of Health bosses say 820 Britons are now being struck down with the life-threatening virus every day, on average. The rate has been rising since dropping to a four-month low of 546 on July 8.
- The number of patients being admitted to hospital has yet to spike, bolstering claims from top scientists that the outbreak is not getting worse and cases are only rising because more patients are being tested.
- Just 109 coronavirus patients were admitted for NHS care across the UK on August 2 — a figure which has barely changed throughout July. During the darkest days of Britain’s crisis in April, around 3,500 patients were needing hospital treatment every day.
Imposing a widespread regional lockdown in the north west was a ‘rash’ decision which is not backed up by the data, an Oxford professor has claimed.
People in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were banned from meeting different households indoors, in a move that Matt Hancock, the health secretary said was ‘absolutely necessary.’
But Professor Carl Henegehan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford said the figures were skewed by delayed test results and when plotted by the date the test was taken showed no overall alarming rise.
“The northern lockdown was a rash decision,” he said. “Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.
This recent crop of trials added 9,112 participants to the total randomised denominator of 13,259 and showed that masks alone have no significant effect in interrupting the spread of ILI or influenza in the general population, nor in healthcare workers.
The small number of trials and lateness in the pandemic cycle is unlikely to give us reasonably clear answers and guide decision-makers. This abandonment of the scientific modus operandi and lack of foresight has left the field wide open for the play of opinions, radical views and political influence.
2:55 – Masks
• Tom Jefferson: “Aside from people who are exposed on the frontlines, there is no evidence that masks make any difference, but what’s even more extraordinary is the uncertainty: we don’t know if these things make any difference…. We should have done randomised control trials in February, March and April but not anymore because viral circulation is low and we will need huge number of enrolees to show whether there was any difference”.
• Carl Heneghan: “By all means people can wear masks but they can’t say it’s an evidence-based decision… there is a real separation between an evidence-based decision and the opaque term that ‘we are being led by the science’, which isn’t the evidence”.
9:26 – Pandemic life cycle
• CH: “One of the keys of the infection is to look at who’s been infected, which shows a crucial difference when comparing the pandemic theory to seasonal theory. In a pandemic you’d expect to see young people disproportionately affected, but in the UK we’ve only had six child deaths, which is far less than we’d normally see in a pandemic. The high number of deaths with over-75s fits with the seasonal theory”.
14:00 – Covid seasonality
• CH: “The stability of the virus is far less when the temperature goes up but humidity seems to be particularly important. The lower the humidity, the more stable the virus is in the atmosphere and on surfaces… It’s now winter in the southern hemisphere, which is why places like Australia are suddenly having outbreaks.”
20:37 – Lockdown
• CH: “Many people said that we should have locked down earlier, but 50% of care homes developed outbreaks during the lockdown period so there are issues within the transmission of this virus that are not clear… Lockdown is a blunt tool and there needs to be intelligent conversations about what mitigation strategies can keep society functioning while we keep the most vulnerable shielded”.
25:20 – Nightingale hospitals
• CH: “They are the wrong structure. What you need is fever hospitals which were here until around the 1980s or 90s. They were on single floors and had isolation within isolation. Theere were no lift shafts and staff were trained, which meant that everyone was protected from each other… It looks like at leats 20% of people got the infection while they were in hospital”
27:30 – Suppression strategy
• CH: “The benefits of the current strategy are outweighed by the harms…When it comes to suppression, only the virus will have a determination in that. If you follow the New Zealand policy of suppressing it to zero and locking down the country forever, then you’re going to have a problem… This virus is so out there now, I cannot see a strategy that makes suppression the viable option. The strategy right now should be how we learn to live with this virus”
32:45 – Response to the virus
• TJ: “I am a survivor of four pandemics and for the other three, I didn’t even realise they were going on. People died but nothing changed and none of the fabric of society was eroded like this response… Do I see steps being taken at a European level about learning from our mistakes and changing policies? The answer is no…
39:30 – Politics of the virus
• CH: “We as individuals are part of the problem because sensationalism drives people to click and read the information. So it’s a big circle because we’ve created the problem — if we put the worst case scenario out there, we will go and have a look. If you want a solution, you’ve got to get people to stop clicking on this sensationalist stuff”.
43:30 – IFR
• CH: “We will be down about where we were with the swine flu: around 0.1-0.3% which is much lower than what we think because at the moment we are seeing the case fatality”.
• TJ: “If you look at the whole narrative, it was distorted from the very beginning by the obsession with influenza which was just one or two agents and nothing else existed. We’re no different now”.
• There was “massive confusion” about different Covid data between England’s health bodies. “Public Health England figures are about double the ONS figures because PHE are reporting anybody who has had a positive Covid death in the past… This will get increasingly confusing as we go into the next Winter because there could be a new outbreak and new deaths while also still reporting on historical deaths… This is a problem for epidemiologists and media… ”
• Even a “28 period cut-off is still not ideal for accurate death numbers because there is “immediate cause and underlying cause… Immediate cause means you’ve had Covid within 21 days but outside of that, it becomes the underlying cause — something that contributed to your death but wasn’t a direct cause. A 21 day cut-off would be helpful because it gives a clearer understanding of that distinction”
• “We follow excess deaths which is the most accurate information about what’s going on at that moment, but it can’t tell you what those deaths are caused by” (i.e. people not coming forward with heart attacks etc)
• “There’s an important distinction between lives lost and life years lost. One of the things we’ll be watching very closely over the next six months is how many people would have actually died in the next six months… That’s where the excess deaths really matter. If we start to see it trend significantly under for the next few months, we’ll start to come forward with information that suggests there was a group of vulnerable people that any respiratory infection would have shortened their life.”
• “In the media you’ll always hear about catastrophe and the consequences of that. One of the things we notice is that when you don’t hear anything that usually means there’s good news happening. So when Sweden looks worse you hear about it but when it’s not so bad, like now, you never see it in the media.”
Writing for the Telegraph, Professors Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, from the University of Oxford, said there is little evidence to support the restriction and called for an end to the “formalised rules”.
The University of Dundee also said there was no indication that distancing at two metres is safer than one metre.
It is remarkable how many deaths during this pandemic have occurred in care homes. According to the Office for National Statistics, nearly 50,000 care home deaths were registered in the 11 weeks up to 22 May in England and Wales — 25,000 more than you would expect at this time of the year. Two out of five care homes in England have had a coronavirus outbreak; in the north-east, it’s half.
Not all these deaths, however, have been attributed to Covid-19. Even when death certificates do mention it, it is not always clear that it is the disease that was the ultimate cause of death. The data refers to people who died with Covid-19 present in their bodies, whether or not it was the direct cause. This raises questions about whether there’s another reason for many of these deaths which has gone largely unnoticed while attention has been focused on Covid-19. This is not just a British phenomenon, but one seen across Europe.
Professor Carl Heneghan, an Oxford University epidemiologist, expects no ‘excess deaths’ by the second week of June, for which the data will not become available until mid-June.
The weekly death toll in England and Wales dropped to its lowest levels since the lockdown began, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report said today. A total of 1,983 people in England and Wales died with Covid-19 in the week ending May 22, down almost 30 per cent in a week and the lowest figure for two months.
Oxford University Professor Carl Heneghan: UK’s outbreak peaked in March before lockdown but ministers had ‘lost sight’ of the scientific evidence and panicked.
See coverage from 21st Century Wire: REVEALED: UK Ministers Knew Crisis Had Peaked Before Lockdown, But Panicked Anyway
See videos from Andrew Mather of who has been showing this by analysing WHO reports.