UK Covid death toll revised down to 5,377 after data review

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The government has overhauled the way data on coronavirus deaths is compiled in England after scientists revealed that Public Health England counts people as having died from the virus, regardless of when they tested positive.

The move meant that the UK death toll was revised down from 5,377 to 41,329 on Wednesday after a review found the daily death toll should only include deaths that occurred within 28 days of a positive test. The new methodology puts England on par with the rest of the UK.

Following an extensive debate between government ministers and scientists on how best to record data, a new set of weekly figures will also be released for deaths occurring within 60 days of reporting a test positive.

Deaths occurring after this 60-day period will also be added to this figure if the virus appears on the death certificate.

An analysis of the epidemiological evidence on the likelihood that the virus was a contributing factor in a death concluded that 96% of the deaths occurred within 60 days or had coronavirus on the death certificate, while 88% of the deaths occurred within 28 days. days.

“The way we count deaths among people with Covid-19 in England was originally chosen to avoid underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages of the pandemic,” said Professor John Newton, director of health improvement for PHE.

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

Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a review of the data last month after an article by two scientists, Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan, identified what they called a “statistical flaw” in the way whose PES counted deaths outside the hospital.

In an article published by the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, scientists said people living in England were increasingly concerned about figures from Public Health England (PHE) showing a daily toll. relentless over a hundred. Deaths associated with Covid several days a week ”.

This, they suggested, was “in stark contrast to the more reassuring recovery” in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland “where there are days without any Covid-related deaths”.

Using this definition of PHE, they argued that “no one with Covid in England is allowed to recover from their illness. A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a Covid death even if he or she had a heart attack or was hit by a bus three months later ”.

Sheila Bird, former program manager at Cambridge University’s MRC Biostatistics Unit, said: “It makes sense to count deaths with a threshold of 28 days. . . and preferably also citing the number of deaths mentioned by Covid according to their death certificate. ”

She noted, however, that it was still “prudent to monitor long-term morbidity and mortality after confirmation of Covid as there may still be a lot to learn about this new disease.”

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