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Britain enters wave of excess deaths not fully explained by Covid

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During the pandemic, the United Kingdom entered the third phase of excessive deaths. The number of deaths exceeded expectations, and this number is not easy to explain with the coronavirus.

In the week ending November 12, the number of registered deaths was 2,047 more than the same period from 2015 to 2019, but only 1,197 people mentioned Covid-19 on their death certificates.

The new phase of excess death has increased the possibility that, since the summer, more and more people have lost their lives due to NHS pressure or lack of early diagnosis of serious diseases, although the interpretation of these numbers is controversial.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, the National Bureau of Records of Scotland, and the Bureau of Statistics and Research in Northern Ireland show three different stages of the pandemic.

The histogram of the number of deaths in the UK (the sum equals the number of excess deaths) shows that the number of excess deaths per week is no longer explained only by Covid-19

In the first wave of infections, Covid-19 is usually not diagnosed as the cause of death because it cannot be tested and the disease is a new disease, leading to a large number of non-Covid deaths and deaths attributed to the virus.

By the beginning of the second phase last winter, the detection problem had been resolved, and the number of deaths caused by the new crown virus exceeded the number of excess deaths, indicating that the pandemic was killing people who would die anyway.

After the wave subsided, the cumulative total of excess deaths declined, and the number of deaths registered every week from March to July has been lower than expected.

The histogram of the number of deaths in the UK above the 2015-2019 average shows that the number of excess deaths in the UK has declined in the summer since the pandemic began, but is now rising again

But since the summer, the number of excess deaths has been steadily climbing, triggering the third phase. These figures show not only the number of Covid deaths, but also the number of non-Covid deaths, which have been higher than the weekly average for the five years before the pandemic since the beginning of July.

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Norwich Medical College, said that he initially suspected that the excessive deaths in recent months might be caused by the return of respiratory viruses such as influenza, but the data showed that cardiovascular disease and stroke are the most prominent diseases. Unexpectedly high mortality rate.

Although the excessive number of deaths is a “hard measure”, he believes that another factor is the increase in the number of household deaths, which is about 30% higher than before the pandemic.

He said: “I assume this is either because people who should be hospitalized decided to oppose it because they were worried about Covid, or because they tried to get into the hospital, waited too long for the ambulance, and then gave in,” he said. .

Stuart McDonald, a researcher with the Association of Professional Actuaries, said that official statistics may have exaggerated the number of excess deaths because the 2015-2019 data did not take into account the aging of the population.

He said: “The proportion of elderly people is increasing, so you can expect an increase in the number of deaths each year.”

Using the baseline of the institute, there were few additional deaths due to Covid-19 in the third phase. However, the new Health Improvement and Difference Office took over responsibility from Public Health England in October and used a complex baseline, showing that Covid did not adequately explain the excess deaths.

Sarah Scoby, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust think tank, said there is no “conclusive evidence” that people seek or receive medical help during a crisis later than they should have done.

However, she added that the new coronavirus prevented the year-on-year improvement in excess mortality.

The National Bureau of Statistics, which compiles mortality data for England and Wales, could not comment.

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