The official UK coronavirus death toll will crack 10,000 today. The real death toll, which unlike the official figures includes those who died in care homes, those who died at home and those who had not already been tested positive for COVID-19, is much higher.
The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine has published a good explanation of why the official figures are inaccurate, complete with spreadsheets so you can see for yourself. The figures we’re given in the daily briefings do not tell us how many people died on a particular day. They tell us how many deaths in hospitals were reported that day. There is often a delay between the death occurring and the death being reported.
Here’s an example. The figure for 8 April was 828 deaths, but none of the 828 deaths happened on the 8th of April. They happened on the 4th of March, and the 5th of March, and the 31st of March, and the 4th of April, up to the 7th of April. Some of the people who died on the 8th will be reported in the figures for the 9th, and the 10th, and so on.
What that means is that there’s a big lag between people dying and their deaths being counted, and that lag can be dramatic: the officially announced death toll for 31 March was 679, but NHS England’s statistics now say it was 1,710. The difference isn’t usually that dramatic, but it does mean that the figures are at best a guide to what’s been happening rather than an accurate picture.
[Update: that means you should prepare for very bad news in the early part of next week: there will be a lag due to the Easter holiday, so we’re likely to see a spike in numbers when those reports come in.]
However you count it, we’re now on track to have the highest death toll of any country in Western Europe, despite having had more time to prepare than the rest of Western Europe.
If you can bear to read it, there’s a timeline of the lethal arrogance that’s already killed thousands of people here.
It is a jarring experience to wake up to a British death toll that is almost a thousand a day, and not see that number on every front page, being put to every politician in every single interview, with a demand for an explanation. It is as if those who should be asking these questions, from the media to opposition politicians, have been subjected to a mass memory-erasing exercise. Every report showing the scale of the crisis should be framed in the language of accountability and anchored in the premise of preventability. With all the benefits of hindsight, the government dragged its feet, wasted precious time and infused the issue with a sense of British exceptionalism: drastic measures need not be taken because in the UK things will somehow be different.
… It’s hard, as we lock down, to nurture an outrage that is based on decisions in the past when the loss of life is happening today – more so when the government has stealthily removed itself from the picture and shifted the responsibility entirely on to the public…
…Relocate the pain and recall that this need not have happened. Ten thousand people, in UK hospitals alone, have now died.