The British government has put on hold releasing daily updates on the number of coronavirus fatalities, after scientists noticed serious oddities in the way Public Health England counts the overall death toll.
The announcement comes shortly after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Public Health England to urgently review its methodology of calculating Covid-19 death figures.
“Currently, the daily deaths measure counts all people who have tested positive for coronavirus and since died, with no cut-off between time of testing and date of death,” reads a short message on the UK government’s website.
There have been claims that the lack of cut-off may distort the current daily deaths number. We are therefore pausing the publication of the daily figure while this is resolved.
Concerns over potential critical flaws in how Covid-19 deaths are counted were recently brought to light in a damning article by University of East Anglia professor Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University.
Their study noticed that PHE have been regularly looking for Covid-positive patients on the NHS database, simply checking if they were alive or not. This method did not consider any time that passed since the coronavirus test, nor whether the patient had recovered in the hospital and was “discharged to the community.”
After this, any person who has tested positive but was successfully treated and sent back home, “will still be counted as a Covid death, even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.”
The statistical anomaly could explain why England’s death toll was considerably higher than those of its neighbors. Currently, UK government figures put the number of “Covid-associated deaths” in England at 40,640 – the lion’s share of the 45,233 fatalities recorded across Britain.
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