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England cuts COVID-19 death count by 5,000 (12%): no deaths more than 28 days later: BBC

2020-08-12
EM SARS-COV-2 from NIAID– CC license

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) posted this story on August 12. The English death count has been reduced by 12% by eliminating deaths that occurred more than 28 days after a positive test. This was done, according to government sources, to bring the definitions in line with other United Kingdom (UK) countries.

This definition is problematic, however, because deaths that occur more than four weeks after diagnosis are quite possibly still due to the infection; many patients have lingered on for long periods after diagnosis.

The large numbers of patients involved make this especially difficult to swallow. What other cause of death can be adduced when the patient was found to have COVID-19 more than four weeks prior to death? Heart failure? Pneumonia? Respiratory failure? Suicide (possibly due to depression from mental effects of the virus?) There are numerous possibilities, but removing these cases from the toll of COVID-19 strikes me as unduly stringent and likely to undercount actual late effects.

Perhaps these 5,000 cases should be further investigated. If they died in car crashes, then they could be removed from the totals, but if they died of late effects from the virus, they should be retained.

That is what the chief medical officers for the four nations in the UK will do going forward. A separate total for those dying within 60 days after diagnosis will be published. Those who died with the virus listed on their death certificate will also be counted, regardless of dates.

An epidemiologist quoted in the story noted that, if an unlimited criterion was used, people who died from unrelated causes months after infection (even if they recovered) would eventually be counted, making the statistics useless from an epidemiological point of view.

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