Who knows what to believe anymore. There is so much data floating around it would make your head spin. The latest number-crunching from the number wizards over at the FT has the actual UK death rate over twice as high at the official rate.
The coronavirus pandemic has already caused as many as 41,000 deaths in the UK, according to a Financial Times analysis of the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. The estimate is more than double the official figure of 17,337 released by ministers on Tuesday, which is updated daily and only counts those who have died in hospitals after testing positive for the virus. The FT extrapolation, based on figures from the ONS that were also published on Tuesday, includes deaths that occurred outside hospitals updated to reflect recent mortality trends.
If these figures stand up it will put further pressure on the Government and the handling of the crisis. But there is some positive news in that we may already have passed the peak:
The analysis also supports emerging evidence that the peak of deaths in the UK occurred on April 8 with the mortality rate gradually trending lower since, despite the 823 hospital deaths announced on Tuesday, which were sharply up on the 449 in the previous 24 hours.
Over in the Irish Times Michael Tomlinson emeritus professor of social policy at Queen’s University Belfast looks into the data North and South:
The graphs show death rates per million of population for the North and the Republic and also hospital-based deaths. In both examples the Republic’s death rate is two-thirds that in the North.
This is the clearest evidence we have that the different approaches to tackling the Covid-19 outbreak are resulting in different outcomes. This may change as the pandemic progresses but for now it is reasonable to assume that the North’s higher death rates result from lower rates of testing, the lack of contact tracing and the slower application of lockdown measures compared with the Republic. The evidence underlines the case for co-ordinated action across the island to hunt down the virus through high levels of testing and contact tracing and for stronger public-health surveillance at points of entry
The whole should we have followed the London lead VS the Dublin lead has descended into the usual Orange and Green tribal issue. My own pragmatic view is we are an Island, it is obvious to me that we should have been coordinating on an all Island basis.
But I will also add health is complex. There could be other factors at play here. General wellbeing and even social status are important factors in the mix. It might be the differences are down to people in the North being less healthy and poorer than people in the South. Poverty can take ten years of your life. Northern Ireland has very high levels of obesity, smoking and heart disease – all important underlying conditions for Covid-19 mortality. Stress also is very damaging, a lot of the victims would have gone through the troubles and those experiences affect you for life. But this is only my view, epidemiologists will be examining Covid-19 for years to come.
I help to manage Slugger by taking care of the site as well as running our live events. My background is in business, marketing and IT. My politics tend towards middle-of-the-road pragmatism, I am not a member of any political party. Oddly for a member of the Slugger team, I am not that interested in daily politics, preferring to write about big ideas in society. When not stuck in front of a screen, I am a parkrun Run Director.