STUDY: Death toll from COVID in the U.K. 'overestimated'

Research published in the Lancet showed that in some countries, like Mexico and Brazil, death counts were underestimated. In the U.K., however, it suggested mortality was overestimated.

STUDY: Death toll from COVID in the U.K. 'overestimated'
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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Britain’s official COVID-19 death toll may have overestimated the number of people who died from the disease due to the way deaths were recorded at the height of the pandemic — among other issues.

A new Lancet study published last Thursday suggests that the Britains death rate dropped significantly below global rankings following the introduction of a new measurement. Officially, recorded deaths from the coronavirus “represent only a partial count of the total death toll” when excess mortalities are factored in.

The study, titled “Estimating excess mortality due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic analysis of COVID-19-related mortality, 2020–21” is an analytical model that health experts are calling “the most comprehensive assessment of excess mortality due to COVID-19 to date.”

The study found that in numerous countries, reported deaths from COVID “represent only a partial count of total death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic.” The study found that after factoring in the excess deaths from January 2020 to December 2021, the death toll in some countries like Mexico and Brazil became considerably higher, however, in the U.K., factoring in excess deaths in the same period suggests that the mortality rate was overestimated.

According to the Daily Mail, which launched a series of special reports probing the science used to underpin Britain’s response to the pandemic, “14 different terms were used to describe a person who had died with COVID — including ‘underlying COVID’, ‘due to COVID’, ‘involving COVID’ and ‘died within either 28 or 60 days of a positive test.’”

“Some hospital trusts required a positive test to certify a COVID death, while others didn’t,” the Daily Mail reported. “Most shockingly, in care homes, deaths were certified by doctors making their inspection via a video call — and this was permitted due to emergency guidance introduced in April 2020.”

“The experts say this, coupled with the lack of testing in care homes, means it is likely that assumptions were made and COVID was wrongly attributed as the cause of death,” the publication continued. “Does this mean the COVID death figure is an over-count? There is no way of knowing for certain — which the Oxford group suggests is far from ideal.”

Some of the excess deaths can be attributed to patients who went without life-saving treatment for heart-related issues between March and July 2020, according to the British Heart Foundation.

“‘Some of the excess deaths will be people who missed out on care,” said Prof. Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of Applied Statistics at the Open University. “But the majority of excess deaths are clumped together in April and May. And most of the lockdown-related deaths, including people missing out on cancer treatment, wouldn’t have been so immediate.”

Experts say that a forensic analysis of historical COVID deaths must be performed for a full and accurate assessment of the total number of people who died from COVID, including medical documentation of every case.

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