Are we over-estimating the Covid-19 death toll?

If so, why are we doing it and why are so few media outlets reporting it?

Over the last week I’ve heard two anecdotal examples of this happening.  The first was from a friend whose wife works in an administrative role at a GPs surgery.  When discussing the death toll he said that “everyone knows” that doctors were routinely certifying Covid-19 as the cause of deaths with little evidence.

Then a recently bereaved friend told that she was being “encouraged” by a paramedic to state that her grandfather who had self-evidently died from a heart attack had typical Covid-19 symptoms such as a cough.

Now a senior oncologist is saying that the virus-related death toll may, in fact, be less than half – a very significant difference – of what has been recorded because many victims of the pandemic would have died soon anyway.

Professor Karol Sikora, the chief medical officer for Rutherford Cancer Centres and previously a director of the World Health Organisation’s cancer programme has said doctors were sometimes too eager to put Covid-19 on death certificates.

He said the virus would be mentioned on death certificates when there was “any hint” that it could have been the cause, without proof, as well as retrospectively over the phone.

This was in contrast to Germany, where a death can only be recorded as being caused by Covid-19 when the clinical team involved in the end-of-life care certifies that is what they believe happened, he said.

Prof Sikora predicted that the overall death numbers at the end of the year would show that many of those who have died over the course of the pandemic would have died by the summer anyway. 

The total number of deaths, rather than what is on the death certificates, should be used to judge the impact of the virus, he said, estimating the real death toll to be 20,000 to 30,000. 

I’m all for transparency and honesty about these numbers and getting them right is important.

Over-estimating, though, them is a serious issue which affects our reputation in the world with the consequence that some countries are now singling us out for travel bans.

It is also slows down the pace at which we ease lockdown, stops us getting our kids back to school and leaves many in the country more anxious about the virus than is necessary.

It doesn’t surprise that much of our media, left-leaning politicians and others with an axe to grind, would seek to put the worst possible spin on the numbers.

What surprises me most is that the Government isn’t trying harder to put these horrifying numbers into a more realistic context.

Published by brianjonesdiary

Dad, husband, brother and son. Interested in travel, politics, sport, health and much more. Semi-retired and aiming to making the most of life as I approach my sixth decade.

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