Your columnist Brett Ellis, writing on December 10 under the heading, “The paranoia created by Covid may be unnecessary” said that he expected “to face some flak”. I have seen no comments in subsequent issues, but Mr Ellis does deserve some flak.

He suggested that the death toll due to Covid may be exaggerated, as many of those included were not tested.

He also cast doubt on whether the reported high levels of deaths in care homes due to Covid really happened, as post mortems did not take place and elements of care services were in lockdown, resulting in Covid being recorded as a cause of death “despite no evidence of it having been present”.

He also suggested that, because only 27 per cent of care home residents survive in their homes for more than three years, that must cast doubt on the numbers recorded as dying from Covid.

All of these claims are mistaken, since:

The daily figures of deaths due to Covid published by the UK Government are entirely of those who have had a positive Covid test in the 28 days before death. It is wrong to say that any of those were not tested.

While it is true that some provisional data reported to the Care Quality Commission on deaths due to Covid in care homes may not have been based on test results, a large majority will have been confirmed by a Covid test. For others, a medical practitioner will usually have made a judgement based on the person’s symptoms. It is wrong to say that this amounts to “no evidence”.

Rather than being overestimated, it is much more likely that deaths due to Covid in care homes have been underestimated, since overall death rates in care homes have been much higher than in previous years. A recent estimate is that 29,400 more care home residents’ deaths, directly and indirectly attributable to Covid, occurred during the first 23 weeks of the pandemic than expected from historical trends. Only two thirds of these deaths were officially reported as directly attributable to Covid. (Covid-19 Care Home Deaths in UK ‘hugely underestimated’ Health Europa 18 November 2020).

Furthermore, excess death rates are recognised by the UK Chief Medical Officers as the most accurate measure of the impact of Covid. The Office for National Statistics has confirmed the UK had an excess mortality of 12 per cent in 2020 - or 76,000 deaths - compared with the average for the previous five years. This is by far the largest excess death rate since the Second World War.

If Mr Ellis does not believe these excess deaths were caused by the Covid virus, perhaps he thinks they were caused by something else? Or perhaps he was merely writing some imagined “alternative facts” based on contempt for knowledge and expertise - that plague of our times.

Crispin Acton

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