The apologists for Tory incompetence are becoming ever more desperate. We now have the undignified spectacle of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine publishing a non-peer-reviewed report co-authored by their Director (and regular contributor to Tory fanzine The Spectator) Carl Heneghan, which claims that Covid deaths have been over-reported due to a methodological failing at Public Health England (PHE).
The report alleges that PHE count all deaths of people who have ever tested positive for Covid as deaths from Covid. If this is the case, then – as unquestioningly broadcast by the BBC – someone could be diagnosed with Covid, recover and then weeks later be hit by a bus, and their death would still count as a Covid death for the PHE statistics.

It’s possible that the allegation is true, but the idea that the scale of its impact is sufficient to lead to a conclusion that deaths have been over-reported is pure fantasy – yet that is the headline used by the Daily Mail, and which Heneghan uses himself in his promotional tweets. The PHE figures for the 10 weeks of the peak of the pandemic only recorded 38k deaths, while the ONS data for the same period shows an excess death toll of 59k over the same 10 week period. For a conclusion that Covid has been over-reported, we’d need over 2 thousand extra people a week being run over by buses or suffering other non-Covid related deaths.

In an earlier non-peer-reviewed report for the CEBM, the same author criticised the comparison of ONS data for 2020 against a 5-year average because this approach doesn’t take account of population increase. The article didn’t show the figures adjusted for population. I guess it’s easier to throw some doubt into the mix if you leave the evidence out.[2] The figure of 59k excess deaths is a comparison of 2020 with a 10-year average adjusted for population growth.[3] That’s still 21k above the PHE figure. The idea that Covid deaths have been over-reported requires that all of those deaths and more must be attributable to non-Covid related causes. Over 2 thousand extra deaths a week, for 10 weeks, unexplained and out of nowhere, but not attributable to the global pandemic that was responsible for the other 3k excess deaths per week in the same period. Does that sound likely to you? No, it doesn’t to me either.

Neither does the idea that there was something unique about the lockdown in the UK that caused so many excess deaths, which somehow magically doesn’t apply in countries that locked down earlier and have suffered nowhere near the level of excess deaths. If lockdown causes such havoc, why have countries as diverse as New Zealand, Japan, Poland, Denmark, Greece and Hungary not been adversely affected?

By all means, let’s eliminate poor methodology, but let’s not feed the disreputable media outlets with a misleading conclusion fully aware that they will propagate the idea that deaths have been over-reported, it’s not as bad as we thought, Johnson is doing a grand job after all, move along now, nothing to see hereā€¦