Almost 10 per cent of deaths attributed to Covid-19 were not related to coronavirus, PHE admits

On Wednesday the Government announced it would be publishing the number of deaths that occurred within 28 days and 60 days in its daily total, after the four UK Chief Medical Officers said that a consistent measure should be adopted.

Official Government death figures have been paused since July 17 while an investigation was carried out. 

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, said: “The way we count deaths in people with Covid-19 in England was originally chosen to avoid underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages of the pandemic.

“Our analysis of the long-term impact of the infection now allows us to move to new methods, which will give us crucial information about both recent trends and overall mortality burden due to Covid-19.”

The new data showed that the percentage of people included in the figures who did not die of coronavirus rose dramatically if they died after 28 days of being diagnosed with the disease.

For people who died within 29 to 42 days of having a coronavirus test, roughly 27 per cent did not have Covid-19 listed on their death certificate. But that rose to 70 per cent for those who died after 60 days of testing positive.

Professor Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said if the data error had not been spotted, the number of deaths from Covid-19 survivors would have continued to increase, and had made tracking the epidemic impossible. 

“The previous measure of always being a Covid-19  death even if recovered was unscientific,” he said.  

“As Covid-19  deaths fall the number of recovered patients, particularly the very old and those with severe underlying conditions are now dying from these conditions and not Covid-19.  

“These non Covid-19 deaths in survivors would become an ever increasing percentage of the England Covid-19 deaths being reported. It had become essentially useless for epidemiological monitoring.”

The government’s previous estimate for UK deaths as of Tuesday was 46,526 but the Department of Health said that as of Wednesday the number of all deaths in patients testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK within 28 days was just 41,329.

Some deaths have not yet been registered and are not included in the new analysis.

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