by Iain Davis
According to the UK Government, as of 27 March 2021, 126,515 people have died as a result of contracting Covid-19, and an additional 21,610 people have died with COVID-19 on their death certificates.
The government alleges, therefore, that a total of 148,125 people in the UK have died as a result of COVID-19. As we shall see, this claim is not credible.
Claims about mortality have been used by both the government and the mainstream media to justify the policy response.
The pace of change driven by that policy response has been astonishing. With Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s recent announcement of the creation of the UK Health Security Agency and its commitment to take “action to mitigate infectious diseases and other hazards to health before they materialise,” it is clear the government’s new (ab)normal is here to stay.
There is clearly an agenda; one entirely founded upon the idea that COVID-19 presents a significant threat. The primary evidence offered to substantiate this claim is suggested COVID-19 mortality.
Age Standardised Mortality
Just like nearly every other mortality cause, COVID-19 risks increase proportionately with age. Statistics for those of working age show a population mortality risk of between 0.0166% and 0.0046%, depending upon who you believe. The COVID-19 risk to the working age population is statistically insignificant. For the under 18’s it is statistically zero.
The average age of COVID-19 death is just over 82. When we look at standard mortality distribution, there is no observable impact from COVID-19.
UK all cause mortality doesn’t suggest any need to panic either.
The ONS released data estimating a total of 607,173 deaths from all causes in England and Wales for 2020. Given demographic changes over time, the ONS use Age Standardised Mortality Rates (ASMR’s) to calculate relative death rates. The ASMR showed that 2020 was the worst year for mortality in the last decade.
ASMR’s were in continual decline throughout the post war period. That decline stopped abruptly in 2009 as the economic impact of the global financial crisis took its toll on public health. Thereafter it showed a marginal rise to 2019. Mortality in 2020 and 2021 should be seen in the context of a global financial crisis that dwarfs the credit crunch of 2008.
ASMR’s fluctuate annually and 2020 showed a significant increase above the 5 year average mortality rate. This was higher than most rises but by no means “unprecedented.” ASMR’s in England since 1938 show similar increases in 1947, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1963, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1985, 1993 and 2014.
Most of these spikes in ASMR’s were in the region of 35 to 45 points. For example, in 2014 the ASMR rose by 40.2, in 1993 by 38.4 and in 1985 by 46.3 points. It rose by 90.5 in 1947, by 83.5 in 1963, it went up by 104.9 in 1970 and in 1951 by 216.3. So the 2020 rise of 118.5 is by no means the worst.
The death toll in 1951 was attributed to the the influenza epidemic which struck some parts of the UK (most notably Liverpool) but left others relatively unscathed. To this day science has struggled to account for this.
2020 not only didn’t have the highest mortality rate in the post war period, it didn’t have the highest mortality rate in the 21st century either. 2020 ranked 9th, out of 20 consecutive years, for all cause mortality in England and Wales. It was the 11th least dangerous year in the last 50.
While there is no statistical evidence of an unprecedented global pandemic in England and Wales (nor in Scotland and Northern Ireland) this tells us little about how many deaths were genuinely attributable to COVID-19. Nor does it indicate at which point we should sacrifice our rights, freedoms, children’s educations and economy in the service of public health.
We certainly didn’t sacrifice them in 1947, 1963, 1970, nor even in 1951. Why was 2020 different?
PCR Does Not Mean COVID
For the purposes of this analysis, we will use the government’s higher claim of 148,000 deaths. The vast majority of these deaths were attributed based upon a positive RT-PCR test. The UK Coronavirus Act makes a clear distinction between the virus and the disease. It states:
Coronavirus means severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); coronavirus disease means COVID-19 (the official designation of the disease which can be caused by coronavirus).
SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are not the same thing. The detected presence of SARS-CoV-2 does not mean the person has or will develop COVID-19.
Therefore the attribution of mortality based solely upon a positive test result in no way proves the person died of COVID-19. The extent to which the disease caused or contributed towards a death is a precise medical assessment. The UK government created a death certification and registration process where this did not occur in an unknown number of cases. We need to know what that number is.
COVID-19 has a distinct presentation that requires careful diagnosis. The uniquesymptoms are severe hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels), hypercapnia (elevated blood Co2 saturation) and unusually no corresponding loss of respiratory system compliance.
Measurement of gaseous exchange and fluid retention in the lungs appears normal, meanwhile the patient, in serious cases, struggles to breath. This is unlike other influenza like illnesses (ILI’s).
Yet the NHS describe a list of COVID-19 symptoms that could be attributable to any ILI. A high temperature, continuous cough and loss of taste and smell are associated with many. While this is public information, intended to guide our decision to seek medical advice or a test, the list of possible causes expands further given that the NHS state just one of these symptoms possibly indicates COVID-19.
Without precise symptomatic diagnosis, it is difficult to distinguish COVID-19 from a range of other respiratory illnesses. A study from the University of Toronto found:
The symptoms can vary, with some patients remaining asymptomatic, while others present with fever, cough, fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. The symptoms may be similar to patients with influenza or the common cold.
A Cochran Review meta analysis of available studies looked for a clear definition of COVID-19 symptoms. Published in June 2020, the reviewers noted:
The individual signs and symptoms included in this review appear to have very poor diagnostic properties … Based on currently available data, neither absence nor presence of signs or symptoms are accurate enough to rule in or rule out disease.
Even using advanced diagnostics, such as a computer tomography (CT) scan, won’t always provide a clear result. A study attempting to improve differential diagnosis using CT scans found:
Although typical and atypical CT image findings of COVID-19 are reported in current studies, the CT image features of COVID-19 overlap with those of viral pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. Hence, it is difficult to make an exclusive diagnosis.
Regardless of their SARS-CoV-2 test status, without a very accurate diagnosis of symptoms, suspected COVID-19 patients could be suffering from one among a range of ILI’s. Again, a positive test result does not mean the patient died from COVID-19, even if they had corresponding symptoms.
Notifications of Infectious Diseases
In England and Wales it is a legal requirement for all registered medical practitioners to notify their local health authority of any suspected cases of notifiable diseases. The list of Notifiable Infectious Diseases (NOIDS) includes COVID-19. This is not optional.
All diagnosing doctors must complete a NOIDS report upon making a diagnosis. Testing laboratories are also required to notify Public Health England (PHE) of positive tests for notifiable diseases (…more)
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.