THE UK has had over 63,000 excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, the highest in Europe.
The Office of National Statistics, (ONS) calculates excess deaths by examining the death certificates of everyone who has died during the pandemic, in hospitals, care homes and in private homes in England and Wales.
The ONS counts the excess numbers, over and above the average levels of deaths for this time of year.
The excess deaths, therefore, include those who have died from Covid-19 and those who have died from other medical conditions.
The ONS and equivalent bodies for Scotland, Ireland and Wales found the excess deaths to be 63,708 in the UK, by the end of May.
At the daily Downing Street press briefings given by ministers and health officials, there is a rushed presentation of some figures and graphs, which are hard to follow.
The public is given the officially recorded deaths from Covid-19 patients who have tested positive, in the last 24 hours, and the total deaths of these during the pandemic.
For example, total deaths with positive tests were 40,597 by 7 June; total deaths as judged by death certificate mention of coronavirus, was 50,107 by 29 May. In the same period, the excess deaths were 63,708.
Other figures given are the increase in infected cases in the last 24 hours, and the total of infected cases to date.
For example, on 11 June, the new coronavirus cases were 1,266 and the cumulative total was 291,409.
But only patients with positive tests are included and many patients have coronavirus symptoms but have not had tests, so the figures given are a huge underestimate.
Since May, a new indicator has sometimes been flagged up on presentations by the BBC News statistics correspondent; that of the estimation of spread of the infection in the community.
This is needed since the original test and trace system in the community was closed down on 12 March.
From mid-April, the ONS has been tasked with performing swab tests of 19,000 people, including children, in 9,000 households.
In this way, community prevalence of coronavirus is estimated.
The week ending 31 May, the ONS estimated that 8,000 people were developing coronavirus per day. In the week ending 7 June, this number was 5,400 and by 11 June the number was 4,500 per day.
But hospital and care home data are not included, although it is a key worry that hospitals and care homes are seeding new cases of the disease into the community.
Other indicators used include hospital admissions and acute and intensive care hospital bed use, the number of patients on ventilators and the use of public transport and cars.
It does not help that the government and officials are prone to ‘gaming’ the information for public presentation, such that the UK National Statistics Authority has had to administer two rebukes, the latest on 2 June.
All these ‘indicators’ and many more estimations, are pooled into the SAGE committee, who then judge whether the R rate is above one or below one, and regional Rs are calculated. They then draw up their recommendations.
Some suggest that this process is like looking into a crystal ball to make a ‘guesstimate’.
It does not provide the actual real-time data that can find out where every infected case is now, and how the disease is spreading to other individuals.
Clusters cannot be identified and treated.
The new community ‘NHS Test and Trace’ system announced on 28 May, by PM Boris Johnson, is part privatised, ‘skeletal’ and is nowhere near the ‘world-beating’ claims that have been made for it.
This can only be done with a comprehensive Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support (FTTIS) system, as advocated by the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, based on World Health Organisation recommendations.
Driving blind in the ‘fog’
The teachers were right to ask where is the scientific evidence to show whether it is safe to re-open schools by1 June. It was not provided to them because it isn’t there.
On 6 June, Greg Clark, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology select committee, concluded that Britain had been left taking ‘decisions in the dark’ because of delay and obscuring by health officials.
Clark said: ‘We turned off the light on being able to see the detailed nature of the course of the infection.’
The senior government officers, Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty and Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, leading SAGE and guiding the government, have recently admitted that they regret, the lack of a proper testing and contact-tracing system from the start.
Whitty said that if he could change one thing, it would be to speed up testing at the start of the epidemic.
He told the daily press briefing: ‘Many of the problems we had came because we were unable to work out exactly where we were, and we were trying to see our way through the fog with more difficulty.’
In fact, it was SAGE itself on 11 February which advocated the scaling down of the original test-and-trace system and it stopped on 12 March.
These are not the only confessions by SAGE scientists last week.
‘Thousands of lives could have been saved’
Professor Neil Ferguson, (Imperial College) and Professor John Edmunds (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) have admitted that they underestimated the rapidity and the degree of spread of the disease in March and should have called for a lockdown earlier.
Ferguson said: ‘Had we introduced a lockdown earlier we’d have reduced the final death toll by at least half.’
Edmunds said: ‘I wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. I think it has cost a lot of lives unfortunately. Thousands of lives could have been saved by earlier lockdowns.’
Last week, they and many other scientists, spoke up and warned about lifting the lockdown too soon, given the levels of the virus still circulating and the easing of the restrictions by government.
With no consistent plan to beat the virus, and no scientific compass, the government brazens out its fatal mismanagement of the pandemic and prepares the way for more disasters.
The responsibility for this colossal loss of life, lies in the hands of the privatisers in the top layers of government, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHSEngland which organises the day-to-day management of the NHS with a rod of iron.
The privatisation agenda demanded that the bulk of NHS pathology testing and delivery be handed over to the big private companies and any delays were a price worth paying.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock continues to say that the government took the right measures at the right time.
So, from not closing the borders, to not preparing mass FTTIS, to not providing hospital quarantine for patients when it has the facilities in the Nightingales, to allowing patients to die at home with no proper medical supervision, to filling the care homes with non-tested patients discharged from hospital creating care home epidemics, and cutting core NHS services to millions of people, to starving the staff of PPE and opening the way to the deaths of 300 health and care workers: these we have to accept as ‘the right decisions at the right time’.
NHSE has used the coronavirus crisis to accelerate its reconfiguration, and privatisation of the NHS as a whole, characterised by a huge denial of hospital and primary care to patients, which they aim to enscapulate in a ‘new normal’ which is now being imposed.
The bringing down of this government and its replacement by a workers government and socialism is the urgent need of the day to save thousands more lives.