In Proportion2 – April 8, 2020
In the above chart BLUE shows the number of deaths from Flu/Pneumonia in 2019, ORANGE shows Flu/Pneumonia deaths this year (it takes a few weeks before data is published). RED are the deaths in the UK reported “with” COVID-19 (“with” not necessarily “because of”).
At this scale, the deaths “with” COVID-19 look relatively few compared to the deaths from all causes and compared to the number of deaths that usually take place in NHS hospitals.
As of 27th March, the total number of deaths so far this year is significantly less than for the equivalent period in 2018 (150,057 vs 164,625).
In the following chart, Chart 2, the figures for deaths from any cause are removed so we can “zoom in” and better see COVID-19 in relation to 2019 Flu/Pneumonia deaths.
In Chart 3, the figures are shown as weekly totals, rather than cumulative totals.
Since week ending 2020-04-13 there has been dramatic fall in Non-COVID-19 deaths. Why?
In the following chart, downloaded from Euromomo on 2020-04-04 you can see overall mortality in a European context up until last week – that is deaths from any cause, including COVID-19. Overall deaths in Europe are currently beyond the range they define as normal; this can be seen as the green line Delay-adjusted number of deaths rises above the dotted grey line representing four standard deviations beyond the mean or Substantial increase. Notice, however, that Europe remains in a much better position now than it was in the previous three winters: 2017-01, 2018-09 and 2019-05 (the fifth week of last year). This raises the question: why are we taking such unprecedented measures with quarantines and shutdowns when this was not necessary in those years?
Is the cure worse than the disease?
To deal with the threat of COVID-19 the UK Government has ordered unprecedented shut-downs and quarantines, and many support this in the spirit of “better safe than sorry”. However, this overlooks the fact that shutdowns and quarantines also kill. The economic, social and health costs will almost certainly include:
- Earlier deaths for cancer sufferers due to diagnosis and treatment delays
- Business failures leading to more business failures
- Job losses leading to poor health, social problems and suicides
- Fewer taxpayers available to fund an increasing need for social benefits
- Reduced funding for the NHS and the rest of the public sector
- Lost educational opportunities and disruption to exams and graduations
- Inflation as Government “prints” and “borrows” more, while tax revenues fall
- Pension values reduced by stock-market crashes
- Reduced life expectancy for people moving deeper into poverty
Or in the words of a former UK Supreme Court Judge:
“The real question is, is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable, and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all?”
Former Supreme Court Judge , Lord John Sumption, discussing the UK response to COVID-19, BBC interview 2019-03-30