How We Know That Official Covid Deaths Are Overestimated

I’ve written before about the overestimation of the pandemic’s death toll in Britain. If you compare the official number of deaths with Covid on the death certificate to the number of excess deaths since March of 2020, you find the latter is about 20% lower. And due to population ageing, even that figure’s an overestimate.

I recently came across another powerful way of showing that the official death count is overstated. (The idea comes from veteran lockdown sceptic and Nobel Prize winner, Michael Levitt.)

Take the two-month period from the beginning of March to the end of April 2021. According to ONS data, age-adjusted excess mortality was –9%, meaning that the overall level of mortality was 9% lower than the five-year average. This can be seen in the chart below, published by the ONS in October:

Each line represents the cumulative age-standardised mortality rate as a percentage of the five-year average. Notice that all three lines begin sloping downward in March of 2021. Since the number plotted is cumulative, this can only happen if the age-standardised mortality rate was below the five-year average at the time.

Okay, so from March to April of 2021, there were significantly fewer deaths than you’d expect. Yet if we turn to the Government’s Covid dashboard, and check deaths in England for the same time period, we see that there were a substantial number:

The red lines mark the beginning of March and the end of April, respectively. Over this period, no less than 4,337 deaths with Covid on the death certificate were recorded in England.

On the one hand, the overall level of mortality was 9% lower than expected. But on the other, there were 4,337 deaths from Covid. What explains this disparity?

A lot of the people who died with Covid on their death certificate would have died anyway. Either Covid didn’t play a causal role in their death; or it did, but they would have died of something else in the absence of Covid (such as seasonal flu).

Note: I’m not claiming that all or even most Covid deaths would have happened anyway. There’s clear evidence that the pandemic killed people, especially during the spring of 2020. But there’s no use in overestimating the pandemic’s death toll. We actually want to get right.

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