BBC: Died with or Died of COVID? What is happening with Mortality Statistics
What’s really going on with Covid deaths data?
With this headline, the British public media BBC published an analysis proving that with Omicron, deaths from COVID in the UK are rising sharply, but more and more of them are actually due to something else.
“This is because some people die with Covid, not from it,” the author said.
The analysis of the British media raises again the question of whether a distinction is made between “died of coronavirus” and “died with coronavirus” and to what extent this difference is reflected in the statistics we read daily.
The wave of Omicron leads to an increase in infections, which means that more people will become infected and some will get sick. Deaths are inevitable, too, but not all will be “real” COVID deaths. There will be people who simply gave a positive test, the analysis says.
There are several ways to track the number of COVID-19-related deaths. The most significant of these is the daily reporting of all deaths within 28 days of a positive test. For the vast majority of these people, COVID was the root cause of their deaths. However, there has always been a smaller part where the cause of death is different. And because Omicron infects so many people, people are more likely to die from an unrelated cause in the month after the test than in the past, writes the BBC.
Doctors who record the deaths write on what may have contributed to them and what most likely caused them. If COVID has contributed in any way, it is a “Covid-related” death. For most of the pandemic, the number of these deaths has closely followed the daily number of deaths, the author said. And they cite the following statistics: in the autumn of 2021 and on Christmas Eve, in only about 15% of COVID-related deaths in England and Wales, Covid was not cited as the cause of death. In the week after Christmas, this share rises to 22%. And in the coming weeks, “we can expect this figure to rise further given the very high levels of people with coronavirus,” said Cambridge statistician Prof. Sir David Spiegelhalter.
About 4.3 million people in the United Kingdom currently (January 15) have coronavirus - the highest level ever and four times more than in early December. So the number of people who can test positive for coronavirus in the month before their death is likely to increase as well. This was not such a big problem when people with coronavirus were less. At present, however, it can be expected that there will be around 55 such “accidental” deaths per day, based on the approximately 2,000 people who die every day during the winter months and the nearly 6% of people in the UK who have tested positive in the last four weeks (mostly young people at lower risk of death), the analysis shows.
Current data show that an average of nearly 210 people die every day within 28 days after a positive test, compared to 110 people shortly before Christmas. So a small fraction of the daily deaths from COVID would be “accidental” or “random”, but an increase in this type of mortality would account for almost half of the increase in deaths from COVID that we have seen since Christmas, adds the BBC.
According to Prof. Dr. Sylvia Richardson, President of the Royal Statistical Society, the daily death toll will be a difficult indicator to track in the coming weeks, as it may be affected by how many people have tested positive recently. She believes that the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus, based on registered deaths, is “the best number to monitor”.
This requires patience. Deaths that occurred this week may not be reported until next week, but may not be reported for another week or two. So it will take longer to be received. But they will increasingly form the best possible picture of the sad number of deaths from the pandemic, the analysis concludes.
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