Matt Hancock calling urgent review into ‘over exaggerated’ coronavirus death toll.
By Faye Brown
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly called for an urgent review into the way Public Health England (PHE) counts coronavirus deaths. A scientist has realised PHE is ‘over-exaggerating’ the daily coronavirus death toll because it counts people as victims if they die of any cause at any time after testing positive for Covid-19. Dr Yoon Loke, a pharmacologist at the University of East Anglia, made his findings public in a blog post on Thursday night. He wrote: ‘It seems that PHE regularly looks for people on the NHS database who have ever tested positive, and simply checks to see if they are still alive or not.
‘PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the COVID test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community.
‘Anyone who has tested COVID positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE COVID death figures.’
PHE are counting deaths of people who have tested positive for coronavirus but died later of natural causes or other illnesses
Scientists believe the official coronavirus death toll is inflated by a ‘statistical flaw’ in counting the deaths
Dr Loke said the way PHE collects data means ‘no-one with Covid in England is allowed to recover from their illness’.
‘A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, 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’ he wrote.
He said this ‘statistical flaw’, which only applies to how out-of-hospital deaths are being counted, explains why England’s daily death toll is still much higher than neighbouring regions.
It is not clear how many community deaths may have been recorded in this way.
The Department of Health, which uses PHE’s data for its daily announcements, has so far counted 45,119 fatalities with 66 announced yesterday.
Matt Hancock is said to be calling a review into how PHE deaths are counted.
The Evening Standard’s political editor, Joe Murphy, this morning revealed on Twitter that Matt Hancock is calling an ‘urgent review’ into the ‘fiasco’.
Dr Loke said it would be a ‘reasonable approach’ to set a three-week limit on blaming someone’s death on coronavirus unless they were in hospital.
Researchers have raised concerns regularly about the way the government is counting Covid-19 victims and say the figures ‘vary substantially from day to day’. On Monday, July 6, for example, 16 deaths were recorded, while 152 were announced the next day on Tuesday the 7th.
The DoH has blamed low numbers on Sundays and Mondays on a ‘weekend effect’ which means paperwork doesn’t get completed.
On Thursday, two Oxford University statisticians said they believed the death toll was far too high and on average around 40 people were dying each day. Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Jason Oke said officials have been lumping deaths from weeks and months ago onto random days for some time now, creating a confusing picture of the state of Britain’s health crisis.
A Public Health England spokesperson told MailOnline that the World Health Organisation has not defined a time limit for counting a death as caused by Covid-19, and said it ‘continues to keep this under review’.