A review of how coronavirus deaths in England are counted has reduced UK coronavirus death toll by more than 5,000, the Department of Health and social care announced. Previously people who died of any cause at any point in time after being tested positive were counted as covid19 deaths. But now according to the new method, only the people who have died within 28 days of testing positive will be considered for the number of coronavirus deaths.
Last month the government announced that the way in which death statistics were compiled was being reviewed after it was pointed by the academics in England that the UK coronavirus death toll included anyone who tested positive for the coronavirus and died, and there was no cut-off point between the person being tested positive and his death. Which means some people were included in the death toll who may have died of other causes.
The new method for counting deaths means that the total UK coronavirus death toll drops down by 12% which is from 46,706 to 41,329. And England’s death figure from the most recent data from the week ending 24th July will drop down by 75% from 442 to 111. Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England Professor John Newton said the way coronavirus deaths were counted in England was originally chosen so that the deaths by the virus were not underestimated at the start of the pandemic.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary of England ordered a review into the method of calculating deaths from coronavirus in July after some oxford scientists raised concerns that the method was different in the four nations of the UK. As in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, only those deaths were included in the UK coronavirus death toll which occurred within a month of being tested positive. For example, someone who stayed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for a period of five weeks and died later would not be treated as a covid19 death.
In England, however, there was no time limit. A person who could have recovered from coronavirus in April and later died in an accident in July would have been included in the UK coronavirus death toll. But now the top 4 chief medical officers in the UK have decided that they would use a single and consistent measure across the UK and the number of deaths occurred within 28 days of testing positive will be published every day. Moreover, a new set of figures will be published every week showing the number of deaths occurred within 60 days of testing positive. Deaths occurring after 60 days, in case of a person admitted in ICU for many months, will be included in the count if covid19 is written on the death certificate.
Professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham Keith Neal said that these measures taken by the government are sensible. He believes that the 28 days period is used by many countries and England is now the same as the rest of the UK. The previous method of always being a covid death, even if recovered, was unscientific according to Neal.