‘Substantially Less Than The Reported 1,709 COVID-19-Related Deaths’

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From top: Testing centre at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2 last month; Former Minister for Health Simon Harris (left) and Phelim Quinn, CEO of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA)

 

This morning.

Via RTÉ

A new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) shows that while Covid-19 caused a 13% increase in deaths in Ireland between March and June 2020, the number of excess deaths linked to the virus may be “substantially” less than has been reported.

The analysis assesses the number of deaths that occurred in Ireland from 11 March 2020 to 16 June 2020 relative to the expected number of deaths, using data from the death notices website RIP.ie.

It found that while there were 1,200 more deaths during that period, this is less than the 1,709 people recorded as having died from coronavirus during those months.

Um.

Anyone?

COVID-19 causes 13% increase in deaths in Ireland between March and June 2020 – HIQA (HIQA)

Excess deaths ‘substantially’ less than Covid-19 figures – HIQA (RTÉ)

Meanwhile

Investigative article on the number of deaths in current The Big Issues.

Continues here.

Rollingnews

52 thoughts on “‘Substantially Less Than The Reported 1,709 COVID-19-Related Deaths’

  1. Carlos-19

    What’s the takeaway here? That there are 509 imaginary deaths? Is that the allegation HIQA are making?

    1. Ellobee

      No there are 509 deaths that were not due to covid 19 and in a normal year we would have had those 509 deaths in that period

      1. Bodger

        Ellobee, I understand the 509 are part of an (overestimated) estimate of how many excess deaths there would be.

    2. f_lawless

      There was between 1,100 and 1,200 excess deaths from all causes during March-June when compared to historical patterns.

      My layman’s understanding is that for the 1,709 Covid figure to make sense, it would mean that, separate to Covid deaths, there was actually between 500-600 less deaths than would normally be expected during that period.

      I assume HIQA believe this is unlikely and that the official Covid death toll “likely overestimates” the true burden of excess deaths caused by the virus.

    3. Help

      I would say as airlines are looking to open figures will be adjusted

      Meanwhile the devastation
      For every business is not enough they want to import the disease to the country after nearly bankrupting whole segments of the economy. By locking us up

      No quarantine for these that are unchecked when entering our country

  2. Bertie Theodore Alphege Blenkinsop

    Excuse my ignorance, why would the numbers be inflated?
    Whose interest is it in?

    1. Bodger

      Rather than use CSO data, expected deaths were predicted using the frequency of previous death notices on RIP.ie during the same period last year.

      This was problematic, Hiqa say, as “the website was not designed for the purpose of monitoring mortality patterns.” Adding: “For example, age and sex are not recorded, and limited data are available on area of residence.”

      1. Bodger

        Also: Excess deaths “could be due to the inclusion within official figures of people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) at the time of death whose cause of death may have been predominantly due to other factors.”

        1. Nigel

          It isn’t as if epdemiologists haven’t been pointing out all along that it could take a while and a lot of work to break down the data into statistics, including the degree to which infection contributed to morbidity.

    2. Cian

      The numbers weren’t inflated.

      HSE/HPSA report on the number of people who died with COVID (broken down into confirmed / probable / possible).
      Many people interpret this a people that died from COVID.

      This report is trying to estimate how many of the people are likely to have died due to COVID.

  3. SOQ

    Bodger- that Continues ‘here’ link is to the RTE story? Should it not be going to The Big Issue?

  4. Brother Barnabas

    I’d be more than sceptical about the numbers being published

    own personal experience: phone call to notify me in mid-March that I had tested positive for covid19 (which I already suspected. a few days later, got a text message with same information, advising me to self isolate etc. around 10 days later, got another sms telling me that my test had returned a negative result. a few days later, another sms telling me that I was no longer on the list for the test as the criteria had changed. next day, another sms telling me my test was positive. and the same sms around a month telling me it was positive. so I got 4 notifications of a positive result, 1 of a negative result and 1 telling me I was no longer on the list for a test. doesnt inspire much confidence.

    1. SOQ

      Something I have wondered- if you have two tests and both return positive, is that clocked up as two separate cases?

      1. Matt Pilates

        Garbage In, Garbage Out. Display it on the ambulance dashboard any way you like.

        1. SOQ

          At the time there was a repeated health warnings (pun) issued that the data was raw. The only factual figures were excess deaths but even that could have had up to a three month time lag.

          One thing I think government could have done is to slap penalties on those who were late registering deaths because in the middle of a pandemic, such figures were crucial.

  5. george

    Good news so. There are 50,000 new cases a day in the US predicted to rise to 100,000 in the next few weeks because they didn’t take it seriously enough. Good thing we did.

    1. Junkface

      Everyone took it more seriously than USA. They are educationally impaired people. The ignorance shown in some states is astounding! They do have a complete f***ing Moron as a president though, so his ant-science / denial of reality has had an effect on the people. If he had shown even the slightest respect for science and moved in step with EU or countries like New Zealand, Australia, they would be in a much better position right now. Right wing populist leaders absolutely fail their people in a pandemic. At this rate USA is heading towards 1 million deaths, maybe 2 depending on current actions.

  6. Liam

    1. Some people died while infected with COVID, but the virus wasn’t the actual cause of death. Nonetheless they were counted in the figures (in Ireland; other countries had different methods)
    2. A certain amount of people who died of COVID would have died anyway in that period due to the typical age profile.

    I’m wary of that Big Issue article as someone describing it as the “corona flu” instantly screams conspiracy-theorist to me.

  7. Cian

    This is a site that shows the Z-score – a way to show the excess deaths. The most recent few weeks of data may not be accurate due to reporting times. It seems to have peaked in must EU countries weeks 14/15/16 and then dropped to normal levels.

    Ireland is interesting – compare to Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, UK;
    https://www.euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps#z-scores-by-country

    1. SOQ

      That’s a really good graph.

      So Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and UK all show a spike.

      Yet Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway and Portugal do not- why?

  8. Aoife

    I think it’s important to remember that even if fewer people died as a direct result of Covid 19 than initially thought, the number of deaths directly and indirectly due to Covid-19 would have been an awful lot higher were it not for our lockdown. Scientists estimate it is 10 times more severe than flu and also much more contagious. It affects various systems of the body and is no longer considered a purely respiratory disease. For this reason, calling it a flu is no longer sensible and is misleading. Some recent research shows that it could be a very unusual vascular disease, which would explain its ability to infect various parts of the body.

    1. John Smith

      No, Aoife, we don’t know what would have happened if there had been no lockdown. We can only gain some understanding of what HAS happened, which is probably (but not definitely) related to the nature of the lockdown restrictions and when they were imposed, etc. The picture is clouded by inaccuracies and by the Nursing Homes situation and by the fact that we are only told part of the whole.

      Comparison with other countries is of little benefit, either, because demographics differ, as does the amount of foreign travel and any number of other factors. No two lockdowns were imposed at the same point, nor with the same restrictions.

      All we can do is to accept what has happened and try to learn lessons for the future. The trouble with that is that everyone will have learnt something different and many of the ideas will be as incompatible as lockdown/no lockdown!

    2. f_lawless

      @Aoife while it may be more comforting to believe the lockdown prevented many deaths and was therefore justified, I think it’s a dangerous assumption to make.

      @John Smith I don’t agree that comparison with other countries is of little benefit. Yes, each country has had its own particular set of factors which influenced the level of impact of the virus. However, it’s been observed that, in each country, the pattern of trajectory of the virus has been largely consistent with the rise-and-fall pattern seen in the standard SIR epidemiological model (Susceptible, Infectious, Recovered).

      Furthermore, while I’m not aware there’s been any studies specific to Ireland alone, there are now various studies which have observed that the introduction of lockdown measures made no significant impact on the trajectory of the virus in countries across Europe. Nor has the later easing of measures resulted in any significant uptick of Covid deaths as one would expect if the measures were keeping the virus in check.

      An explanation for this, according to an epidemiological team from Oxford University, among others, is that the virus had already spread widely, though undetected, among the various populations before the lockdown measures were ever introduced – ie the horse had long bolted from the stable.

      As senior epidemiologist at Oxford Uni, Sunetra Gupta, recently put it:

      “In almost every context we’ve seen the epidemic grow, turn around and die away — almost like clockwork. Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour which is highly consistent with the SIR model. To me that suggests that much of the driving force here was due to the build-up of immunity. I think that’s a more parsimonious explanation than one which requires in every country for lockdown (or various degrees of lockdown, including no lockdown) to have had the same effect.”

      https://unherd.com/2020/05/oxford-doubles-down-sunetra-gupta-interview/

      1. John Smith

        Forgive me, f_lawless, for my blanket statement that comparison between countries is of little benefit. I was thinking in terms of the simple ‘Sweden didn’t have a lockdown and Norway did and Norway has had much better results’ sort of statement, which doesn’t take into account any of the other factors involved.

        Like you, I find the assumption that lockdown has saved many lives a dangerous one. I also wonder whether there has been any proper investigation (or whether there will be one) into the extent to which the lockdown has been observed in practice by individuals in their everyday lives, especially as some of the measures were pretty-well unworkable in some places. The findings of the official survey do not match up with my own observations.

      2. R.F.

        @f_lawless you’re contradicting yourself. You say country comparisons are of benefit and it’s been seen that the virus followed the same trajectory yet you also say that there’s no proof that lockdown here helped with deaths. How, then, is the UK’s situation (and specifically England) so much worse than ours, if not because of lockdown difference where, let’s face it, we went much further as a population than they actually adhered to.

        1. John Smith

          Infection rates are greater in highly-densely populated areas. There is a very different demographic in England from Ireland. England is 6 times as densely populated as Ireland and the population is mainly housed in large towns and cities. Even most villages are far bigger than very many Irish towns. Ireland has Dublin – somewhat bigger than Birmingham – and then Cork – about the size of York – and a few more biggish cities/towns. Also, a lot of the population of Ireland lives out in the country, not even in a village and this is not the case in England, where living in settlements is the norm. This demographic difference is likely to have a significant bearing on comparative infection/death rates.

          The comparative success or otherwise of lockdown cannot be assessed without taking into account demographics. Also, no study has been done, that I know of, on how much the population here adhered to the restrictions. The official survey only has a survey cohort of 2000 and the findings don’t reflect my own observations. I don’t think that we can assume than we were better than the UK but the numbers involved are much smaller.

          f_lawless’s point is that the overall affect regarding the pattern of rise and fall in rates (regardless of actual numbers) is the same in all countries, whether or not they had lockdown or what the restrictions were. A comparison of that sort is independent of the differences between countries and lockdowns and so f_lawless’s point is a valid one.

          1. R.F.

            If you look at the overall effect regarding the pattern of rises and falls in rates REGARDLESS OF THE NUMBERS all you’re saying is “more people died for a while, and now less “more people” are dying. FFS even the Big Issue conspiracy theory article agrees with that.

            It’s utterly meaningless to look at these stats “regardless of the numbers”.

            Compare the excess deaths charts linked above for Ireland and the uk regions and it’s clear our curve is flatter than England, comparable to Northern Ireland (who, after an initial hiccup, largely aligned their measures with ours) and a little better than Wales or Scotland.

            As for compliance, if you question a suggestion our compliance wasn’t better than England (people squeezed onto tubes in the early weeks, people squeezed onto beaches in the later weeks) or our lockdown more severe, then I think two weeks from tomorrow, after England heading to the pub at 6am en masse, the true effect of lockdown will be clear to all.

            Surely you accept that lockdown meant people kept apart, and that slowed the virus spread. If so, what don’t you agree with then? That slowing the virus spread minimised deaths? And yet every public health expert (sorry, perhaps you are one, so almost every) agrees that keeping people apart saves lives.

        2. f_lawless

          It depends on the validity of the comparisons. It’s one to thing to observe that the trajectory of the virus has followed “an almost uniform pattern of behaviour” in different countries and that according to the available data in each country, there was no significant shift in trajectory either after the lockdown measures were introduced or when they were subsequently eased.

          It’s another thing to assert that because we’ve had a lower death rate than country X , therefore that’s proof our lockdown measures were more effective theirs. It’s not proof.

          Some contrasts between Ireland and the UK which may have been contributing factors to the differing levels of impact::

          – older population: 18 per cent of UK population is aged 65 or older, compared with only 13 per cent in Ireland
          – .a greater proportion of people in the UK live in towns or cities, 83 per cent urban for UK, 63 per cent for Ireland, cities are more densely populated
          – UK has a higher proportion of people from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities who have been found to be at higher risk from the virus .
          – larger areas of high poverty in the UK

          1. Steph Pinker

            … also, it’s worth bearing in mind that Covid-19 didn’t just begin overnight in Ireland in February, it was already prevalent; consequently, Autumn/Winter 2019 Corona Virus patients could have been misdiagnosed as influenza patients and [subsequently] vice-versa as we were unaware of the existence of the virus.

          2. John Smith

            R.F. I can only speak for the areas that I was visiting before lockdown but people were already keeping their distance and traffic, etc, had greatly declined before lockdown was imposed. Also, the apex of the curve had already been passed. I do not believe that we can know whether the additional imposition of lockdown saved lives by keeping people apart, especially as we do not know how many lives have been or will be lost actually because of lockdown.

            However, the trajectory that f_lawless has described suggests that lockdown and the variety of restrictions imposed or no lockdown at all, doesn’t seem to make much difference. The knock-on effects of lockdown, though, are major, as regards health and many other aspects of life and business.

      1. Cian

        Did you read that article that you linked to: specifically:
        Footnote:

        The role of senior civil servants, including the Chief Medical Officer, is to advise the Minister on the appropriate course of action. For senior civil servants to decide on the most appropriate course of action in any circumstance, they need to establish all relevant facts and information before advising the Minister. Hence, the initial advice provided by the Chief Medical Officer to the Minister for Health on 26 April regarding the emerging issues relating to CervicalCheck was to allow a short time for him and his team to establish the facts. These facts would then be used to determine what if any, further investigation was required and what action should be taken. This is the same approach as the response to the tragic deaths of newborn babies at Portlaoise Hospital, revealed in January 2014, where a report was completed by the Chief Medical Officer in three weeks. This report was strongly critical of the patient safety practices in Portlaoise maternity services and it recommended, and led directly to, a large HIQA investigation.

        The advice of the Chief Medical Officer to the Minister on 26 April to conduct an initial report preceded the decision to embark upon the Scally process. It is important to emphasise that it was the work of the Chief Medical Officer, other officials in the Department of Health, and the Serious Incident Management Team established at the direction of the Department which uncovered additional facts in response to which the Scally review was put in train.

        Dr Scally’s report in September 2018 affirmed that there was no evidence that the rates of discordant smear reporting, or the performance of the programme, fell below what is expected in a cervical screening programme. Dr Scally’s report was clear that the crisis arose because of a failed attempt to disclose the results of a retrospective audit to women who had already developed cervical cancer. He found no evidence of a coverup by the Department.

        (my emphasis)

        1. Curious Armchair Epidemiologist

          Did you read the footnote at the bottom of the article, Micko?

          1. Micko

            Yeah I did.

            And the Examiner being put under pressure to add it in a month later doesn’t impress me.

            “I strongly advise that you DO NOT COMMIT to a review of CervicalCheck arising from the recent court case.”

            Looking after their own backs

            But, yeah he’s a great lad

          2. Cian

            You didn’t mention the next bit:
            Dr Holohan warned the minister that to announce a review “could unnecessarily undermine public confidence in CervicalCheck” when there was “no evidence at this stage that there are quality or patient safety concerns with the CervicalCheck programme”.

            He was correct on both counts: it undermined CervicalCheck and there was no evidence of quality/patient safety concerns.
            Dr Scally’s subsequent report found none either.

  9. John Smith

    All the figures relating to the Coronavirus are questionable. We cannot know how many people have/have had the virus, only the ‘confirmed cases’ and Barnabas’s example shows that that is probably unreliable. Nor can we know for sure how many people have died, directly or indirectly, because of the virus, even if they had actually tested positive before they died. The figures may be underestimated or overestimated.

    One aspect of the uncertainty is shown by the interesting concept of a ‘probable death’, which appeared in the official updates on 24 April. It’s not a ‘missing, presumed dead’ report, as in war, but refers to an ACTUAL death.

    ‘There have also been a total of 185 probable deaths due to COVID-19 bringing the total death total to 1014. (A probable death is a death where a laboratory test has not been done but where a doctor believes a death is associated with COVID-19)’

    Even when ‘probable death’ is interpreted as ‘death probably due to Covid-19’, as is, no doubt, intended, the definition allows for a great deal of doubt in any figures relating to it. That is on top of the uncertainty present even where there has been a positive test result.

    Too much emphasis is being placed on figures, which are being used to justify whatever actions are decided on by those making official decisions. People, meanwhile, are confused, frightened or just carrying on as normal, to the best of their ability. The last category includes those who are finding it all rather unreal. As a neighbour said to me the other day, ‘I don’t even know anyone who has had the virus, let alone anyone who has died, so why should I be frightened?’

    Every life is precious and it is very sad that anyone should have suffered or died as a result of Covid-19 but let’s pay more attention to individuals and less to inaccurate figures.

    1. John

      The true extent of the deaths will not be known for some time.
      The lockdown efforts will have suppressed other deaths and not just Covid-19. It will be very interesting to see the analysis done in 6 months time.

    2. Cian

      Even when ‘probable death’ is interpreted as ‘death probably due to Covid-19’, as is, no doubt, intended
      You’re misinterpreting the data.
      A ‘probable death’ is a death where there is a reasonable likelihood that the person was COVID-positive (but no test had been done).
      NOT that death was probably due to COVID.

      1. John Smith

        Cian, I did quote the official explanation from the report on 24 April:
        ‘There have also been a total of 185 probable deaths due to COVID-19 bringing the total death total to 1014. (A probable death is a death where a laboratory test has not been done but where a doctor believes a death is associated with COVID-19)’

        I was trying to make sense of the ‘probable deaths due to Covid-19’, which is syntactically incorrect and nonsensical. They are not ‘probable deaths’ but actual deaths. The simplest suggestion is that words should have read ‘deaths probably due to Covid-19’.

        However the point I was making was that we can’t know in some (many?) cases whether Covid-19 was the actual cause of the death, only that the person tested positive. In the cases of ‘probable deaths’, we haven’t even got a positive test result. As the wording shows, ‘a doctor believes a death is associated with Covid-19’. This shows the uncertainty, particularly in the use of the word ‘associated’, which is not the same as ’caused by’. These deaths were included in the death figures so are treated as ‘Covid deaths’ so I don’t think I am misinterpreting the data.

        1. John Smith

          Cian. I do agree with you that the deaths in the daily reports are referred to as being of people who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 not as people whose deaths were caused by it. However, the figures are used as if the two descriptions are synonymous and it would seem that we are in agreement that the official figures cannot be taken as a statement of the number of people who have died of Covid-19.

  10. Madam X

    10 weeks after the last fever, myself and partner are still not fully recovered. The virus has affected pancreas and liver function Anyone who takes social distencing lightly or ignores it beware.

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