THE MASSACRE OF THE SAINTS
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Disturbingly, only a third of the excess deaths seen in the aged community in England and Wales can be explained by COVID-19, new data have shown. So, if the inexplicable deaths of the vulnerable aged cannot be blamed on COVID-19, who then is carrying out the massacre of the saints?
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data that cover deaths in hospitals, care homes, private homes, hospices, and elsewhere, show that 6,035 people died as a result of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection in England and Wales in the week ending 1 May 2020, a decline of 2,202 from the previous week.
Although the number of deaths in care homes has fallen for the second week in a row, more COVID related deaths are being reported in care homes than in hospitals and are tailing off more slowly.
However, David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge said that COVID-19 did not explain the high number of deaths taking place in the aged community.
At a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre on 12 May he explained that, over the past five weeks, care homes and similar had had to deal with a ‘staggering burden’ of 30,000 more deaths than would normally be expected, as patients were removed from hospitals because they wrongly anticipated high demand for beds.
Of those 30,000, only 10,000 have had COVID-19 specified on the death certificate.
While Spiegelhalter acknowledged that some of these ‘excess deaths’ might be the result of under-diagnosis, ‘the huge number of unexplained extra deaths in homes and care homes are extraordinary.
He added that many of these deaths would be among people ‘who may well have lived longer if they had managed to get to or remain in hospital.’
David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine agreed. ‘Some of these deaths may not have occurred if people had got to the hospital,’ he said. ‘How many is unclear. This issue needs urgent attention, and steps taken to ensure that those who would benefit from hospital treatment and care for other conditions can get it.’
Jason Oke, senior statistician at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford explained that equivalent data on excess deaths in Scotland were classified by the underlying cause of death, including dementia, as well as circulatory, cancer, and respiratory causes.
In the first week after lockdown a spike in deaths occurred from all causes, but ‘we now have a return to normality for all except dementia,’ he explained. He called for the ONS to report on excess deaths in a similar way.
Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said, ‘Data shows that action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in social care has been late and inadequate. It has highlighted significant weaknesses in the social care system due to decades of neglect and lack of reform. Covid-19 has ultimately magnified the human impact of decades of underfunding in the sector and policy neglect.’ Like this story? Share with friends!
MICHAEL WALSH is a worldwide journalist, broadcaster and author of 64 book titles with 36 years experience. Like other journalists of integrity, he no longer writes for corporate media, opting instead for true journalism.
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