The government’s estimate of the number of people in England who have died from coronavirus was last week reduced by more than 5,000—leading to a wave of suspicion that it was an attempt to manipulate the figures.
It is not difficult to see why people would arrive at that conclusion.
After the scandal of personal protective equipment and testing kits, where ministers repeatedly assured us all was well, frontline workers told of shortages, chaos and death.
So it’s not surprising that few people trust the Tories.
The reduced number was arrived at by changing the way Covid-19 deaths are recorded.
The health department in England said that it was now only listing Covid-19 deaths of people who had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.
The previous method was to count anyone who had tested positive at any point.
This statistical method has long been used in Scotland, and is one of the reasons why that administration has been able to claim so few deaths.
Supporters rightly say that as the virus continues there will be many more deaths among people who had tested positive some months ago but who did not die from anything connected to Covid-19.
But there are flaws in the 28-day approach.
Some people who are diagnosed with the virus spend a considerable time hospitalised. Sadly there are very many cases of people dying after more than a month in intensive care.
These people will now not be counted as a coronavirus death.
A far more useful way to measure the impact of the coronavirus is to count the number of “excess deaths” that a country has experienced in a given period.
It tells us not only of the direct impact of Covid-19, but also of its indirect effects, such as those whose lives were shortened by the collapse of routine healthcare during the pandemic.
The Institute for Public Policy Research this week reported that the chances for people in Britain with breast cancer surviving for five years after diagnosis could fall from 85 percent to 83.5 percent.
People with lung cancer could see their chances of being alive after that time drop from 16.2 percent to 15.4 percent.
The shutdown of NHS cancer screening during the early phase of the pandemic meant that 210,000 people a week could not be screened.
The Office for National Statistics says that the number of excess deaths in England and Wales so far this year is up 52,895 against the five-year average.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, Europe’s excess mortality was highest in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain.
More testing disasters
The sham of England’s coronavirus testing regime was further revealed last week after the government removed a staggering 1.3 million tests from its data because of double counting.
The “adjustment to the data” was made to pillar 2 testing figures—those conducted by private firms, such as Deloitte outside hospital settings, and the tests that are mailed out to people.
The Tories have already come under fire for the way they calculate their headline figure of the number of tests.
The health department counts every kit its contractors send out as a successful test, even
if the test is not returned.
The revised test count comes after up to 750,000 unused coronavirus testing kits manufactured by the diagnostics company
Randox were recalled from care homes and individuals because of concerns about safety standards.