Deaths

First Omicron Death Shrouded in Mystery Due to Government Secrecy, Experts Claim

Experts have expressed outrage towards the Government for not revealing key details relating to the U.K.’s first Omicron death, with Professor Karol Sikora saying that the Government’s secrecy is likely causing unnecessary panic. So far, the Government has not provided information on whether the deceased was vaccinated, if they belonged to a vulnerable demographic, or even if Covid was the leading cause of death, with the Prime Minister’s Spokesman stating rules surrounding patient confidentiality as the reason for this lack of transparency. MailOnline has the story.

Experts are demanding answers about the U.K.’s first Omicron fatality, such as the individual’s vaccination status, if they were part of group vulnerable to Covid, and if the virus was the leading cause of death. 

Professor of Medicine and Consultant Oncologist Karol Sikora said the Government was not providing the nation with enough information about the death, and that this was causing “unnecessarily alarm”. 

“Were they in hospital for Covid or were they there because they had been run over by a bus?,” he said.  

Boris Johnson revealed the U.K.’s first death due to Omicron on a visit to a vaccination clinic in Paddington, west London.

He said: “Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.”

Johnson did not reveal the age of the person who died, or if they had underlying health conditions, which made them vulnerable, or whether Omicron was the leading cause of their death or a secondary factor. 

The death in the U.K. is thought to be the first confirmed Omicron fatality in the world.

However, given the variant makes up almost every case in South Africa it is likely that the vast majority of fatalities there are due to the mutant strain but a lack of testing means these are not picked up.

Health bosses today also revealed that 10 Britons have already been hospitalised with Omicron. But the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which confirmed all were aged between 18-85 years-old and that most had received two doses of Covid vaccines, refused to say if any had already had a booster.

UKHSA however did reveal that the individual who died of Omicron was diagnosed in hospital. 

Sikora said the Government should release more details about the death to put people’s minds at ease.   

“Have they had booster? Are they elderly?,” he said.  

“There are all sorts of nuances to this thing, and we’re not being given proper information.”

He added that given the average age of Covid fatalities in the U.K., and that the individual may have died while being infected with Omicron, as opposed to because of the variant, there was no reason to panic and the Government should calm fears rather than stoke them. 

“The average age of death of Covid is 82.5 so a lot of 82 year-old people die in a year, at any one time,” he said.

“No details have been released, I suspect it’s just some old boy that’s tested positive, he may have died in his sleep or with a heart attack, who knows?

“It is unnecessarily alarming.”

Professor Sikora said his suspicion is that the silence regarding whether the person was vaccinated or not indicated to him that the person died of another cause while they had Omicron. 

“I suspect that it’s a death, which is unfortunate, but is due to something else, and it just happens to be Covid positive that’s why they’re not making a big noise about them being vaccinated or not,” he said.

When queried on the lack of details regarding the Omicron death, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman cited patient confidentiality as a reason, but added more details may be forthcoming in UKHSA end of week report.   

“Obviously when it comes to individual deaths there is a right to patient confidentiality so we are limited in what we can say,” he said. 

Worth reading in full.

A Doctor Writes… What We Know About the Omicron Variant So Far

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, on what we know so far about the Omicron Covid variant. He’s also written about the scandal of the Downing Street parties – Secret Santa-Gate – asking: “If Covid really was such a mortal threat as the Government have led the public to believe, do readers really think that Downing Street apparatchiks would be flocking to packed parties in small rooms? I suspect not.

It’s now two weeks since the world first heard of the Omicron variant. Travel restrictions and mask mandates were immediately reimposed on the U.K. population and have since been tightened further. Reports in the press this morning are trailing the reimposition of more curbs on liberty in the U.K. over the next few weeks. In today’s update, I will examine what we have learnt about the new variant and to what extent it may affect the situation in the NHS. This update is a bit data-heavy, so apologies in advance for the graphic fest.

South Africa is widely regarded as the epicentre of Omicron. Having spent considerable time working in that wonderful country, I can attest to the expertise of my South African medical colleagues, particularly in the field of infectious diseases. So, when Dr. Fareed Abdullah writes from the Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria that the data so far on the Omicron variant suggests it is very much milder than the Delta variant, I’m inclined to take him seriously.

I encourage readers to examine this document themselves – this extract is worth quoting in full:

In summary, the first impression on examination of the 166 patients admitted since the Omicron variant made an appearance, together with the snapshot of the clinical profile of 42 patients currently in the Covid wards at the SBAH/TDH complex, is that the majority of hospital admissions are for diagnoses unrelated to Covid. The SARS-CoV-2 positivity is an incidental finding in these patients and is largely driven by hospital policy requiring testing of all patients requiring admission to the hospital.

Using the proportion of patients on room air as a marker for incidental Covid admission as opposed to severe Covid (pneumonia), 66% of patients at the SBAH/TDH complex are incidental Covid admissions. This very unusual picture is also occurring at other hospitals in Gauteng. On December 3rd, Helen Joseph Hospital had 37 patients in the Covid wards of whom 31 were on room air (83%); and the Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital had 80 patients of which 14 were on supplemental oxygen and one on a ventilator (81% on room air).

Is Vaccine Efficacy Being Overestimated Because Deaths in the Vaccinated Are Delayed Compared With the Unvaccinated?

There follows a guest post by ‘Amanuensis’, an ex-academic and senior Government researcher/scientist. It was first published on his Substack page.

The latest UKHSA Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths data shows a continuation of an interesting trend – while the majority of deaths with Covid occur in the 28 days following their positive test, there appears to be a relatively larger number of vaccinated dying after this point, compared with the unvaccinated.

This effect can be seen in the following table 1, which shows data from the UKHSA vaccine surveillance reports for weeks 36 to 48:

Note: We’re not simply comparing deaths <60 days and deaths <28 days in the UKHSE table – we have to compare deaths between 28 days and 60 days in the one month with deaths before 28 days in the prior month. For example, for the most recent data (week 48) we need to subtract the <60 days from the <28 days to get the deaths only in the second month, and then compare the deaths <28 for week 44, one month ago. Also, do not pay too much attention to absolute values – the reason that there are far more deaths in the vaccinated for the older age groups is because the majority are vaccinated.

For example, for those over 80 (the final row of the table), there were 480 deaths with Covid in unvaccinated individuals in the first 28 days after their positive test, but an additional 59 in the days that followed, up to day 60 – that’s an increase of approximately 12%. However, for vaccinated individuals aged over 80 there were 3,521 deaths with Covid in the first 28 days and an additional 852 deaths from day 28 to day 60 – an increase of approximately 24%.

This pattern of relatively more deaths with covid between day 28 and 60 in the vaccinated is seen for all age groups:

Guardian Article Claims Covid in Hospitals Has “Largely Become a Disease of the Unvaccinated” – Yet Data Shows 71% of Adults Hospitalised with Covid Are Vaccinated

An article appeared in the Guardian this week written by an anonymous NHS respiratory consultant claiming that “in hospital, COVID-19 has largely become a disease of the unvaccinated”.

Of course, there are people who have their vaccinations but still get sick. These people may be elderly or frail, or have underlying health problems. Those with illnesses affecting the immune system, particularly patients who have had chemotherapy for blood cancers, are especially vulnerable. Some unlucky healthy people will also end up on our general wards with Covid after being vaccinated, usually needing a modest amount of oxygen for a few days.

But the story is different on our intensive care unit. Here, the patient population consists of a few vulnerable people with severe underlying health problems and a majority of fit, healthy, younger people unvaccinated by choice. … If everyone got vaccinated, hospitals would be under much less pressure; this is beyond debate. Your wait for your clinic appointment/operation/diagnostic test/A&E department would be shorter. Your ambulance would arrive sooner. Reports of the pressure on the NHS are not exaggerated, I promise you. … Most of the resources that we are devoting to Covid in hospital are now being spent on the unvaccinated.

This reads to me like a blatant attempt to stigmatise the unvaccinated as selfish, a burden on society and a threat to the vaccinated. (The clue is in the headline: “ICU is full of the unvaccinated – my patience with them is wearing thin.”) Given the polling (which may not be very reliable of course) showing that 45% of U.K. adults would support an indefinite lockdown of the unvaccinated, this is all starting to look and sound rather ugly.

The most frustrating thing about this anonymously written article is it doesn’t cite any data even though its arguments are based on claims which only data can validate. It consists instead only of a single medic’s subjective impressions, with no sources provided to see if his claims holds water.

Are the hospitalised mostly unvaccinated? Not according to Government data from the UKHSA. Here is the breakdown of hospitalisations by vaccination status in England for the four weeks up to November 14th from the latest Vaccine Surveillance report.

Why is the ONS Claiming Just 1% of Covid Deaths Are in the Vaccinated When PHE Data Shows the True Figure For August was 70%?

The ONS has published a new study on Covid deaths which purports to show how few vaccinated people die of Covid. Here’s how the Telegraph reported the headline claim: “Only 59 fully vaccinated people without serious health conditions died from COVID-19 out of more than 50,000 deaths in England this year, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.”

The Telegraph report continues:

In the first study of deaths by vaccination status, the ONS found that around 99% of COVID-19 deaths between January 2nd and July 2nd 2021 were in people who had not had two doses.

Overall 640 (1.2%) of deaths were in those who had received both vaccine doses, but the ONS said many of those could have been infections picked up before the second dose. 

Just 256 deaths (0.5%) were considered true “breakthrough” infections where the second dose had long enough to work, but still did not offer protection. 

However, the average age of those “breakthrough” infections was 84 and the majority (76%) were classed as “extremely clinically vulnerable”. Just 59 did not have serious medical conditions.

These statistics appear remarkable – until you realise what they’ve done. Although the data is presented as “this year” in fact the cut-off date is July 2nd. That is significant because it is just before the Delta surge got going. This means the data all comes from the Alpha surge, when almost no-one was vaccinated and tens of thousands of Covid deaths were reported, and from the quiet spring and early summer when many were vaccinated but almost no-one died (see chart below).

A Doctor Writes: Predictions of Doom Have Not Been Borne Out

We’re publishing an update this morning from the Daily Sceptic’s in-house doctor in which he analyses the latest NHS hospital data. Conclusion: no need to panic.

I have been a bit quiet lately, partly due to being on holiday and partly due to waiting a while to examine what trends are emerging from the hospital admissions data over the later summer.

On looking at the latest figures and associated media commentary I have been reminded of an old Russian aphorism from the Soviet era: “The future is certain, but the past keeps changing.”

For example, on February 3rd, 2020, Boris Johnson, warned of the danger that “new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic”, leading to measures that “go beyond what is medically rational, to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage”.

I didn’t catch any reference to that (very reasonable) remark this week when the Prime Minister imposed further taxation on the working-age population and the companies that employ them. Before returning to the airbrushing of recent history, I will consider the hospital level data over the last month to discern trends and discuss what reasonable inferences we can draw from the numbers. I confess that some of the information doesn’t quite make sense to me – I will elaborate on this point later.

The first and most glaringly obvious fact is that the catastrophic tsunami of hospitalisations confidently predicted by all the experts who have assumed the governance of the U.K. has failed to arrive. How annoying that must be for Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the Lancet, who described the relaxing of restrictions in July as “driven by libertarian ideology” rather than the data. Or Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, who said that “the Government policy seems designed to increase cases” and predicted there will be hundreds of ‘superspreader’ events in the coming weeks. The Lancet published a letter signed by 122 self-identifying experts which suggested that the Government was conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” in removing societal restrictions on July 19th.

NSW to Record Patients as Dying “With” Instead of “From” Covid

New South Wales (NSW) health officials have admitted that not all of the state’s ‘Covid deaths’ have actually been caused by Covid and say they will start recording patients as dying “with” instead of “from” the virus. Better late than never, I suppose. The Mail Australia has the story.

[NSW Health’s] Dr. Jeremy McAnulty made the admission during Sunday’s Covid briefing as the state recorded 1,218 new cases of coronavirus. …

Dr. McAnulty said the change in language was because it was “very difficult to know” whether someone with Covid died from the virus, or another health complication.

“We know when elderly people die, they can have a range of comorbidities, and also, being old increases your risk of death,” he said.

“Covid may often play a role in the death, but it may not. Sometimes, some of our cases who have sadly died appear to have recovered from Covid, and then they have died of something [else].

“We report people who have died ‘with’ Covid, unless there is a very clear alternative.”

He added that it was difficult for doctors who were looking after patients to know exactly how much the virus contributed to their death. …

Earlier this month, Ady Al-Askar a forklift truck driver from Liverpool collapsed in his shower after contracting Covid from his wife Yasmin who works in aged care. 

The 27 year-old was isolating with his wife in their unit in Sydney’s southwest and barely showed any Covid symptoms before his untimely death. 

However, heart conditions reportedly run in the Al-Askar family, and his cousin, Khalid Thijeel, told the Mail Australia he believed it was this that cost the man his life, not the virus. …

Paramedics who responded to the emergency reportedly confirmed that Ms Al-Askar suffered heart failure, whereas the hospital and Dr Chant specified that Covid was a contributing factor in his death.

A few weeks later, Osama Suduh from Sydney’s Covid-hit south-west, became the state’s youngest recorded victim of Covid – though he died of meningitis.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson Will Impose New Lockdown if Reported Covid Deaths Reach Around 1,000 a Week, According to Government Sources

The Prime Minister is said to have devised a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether he should plunge the country into another lockdown. A Government adviser says Johnson would be minded to impose further restrictions if the reported number of Covid-related deaths in the U.K. over the space of a year looked likely to rise above 50,000 (that’s just under 1,000 a week, or 137 a day). i news has the story.

Downing Street has denied it has set any “acceptable level” of Covid deaths but one adviser, who has been close to the Government since coronavirus struck 18 months ago, told i that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had privately accepted that there would be at least a further 30,000 deaths in the U.K. over the next year, and that the Prime Minister would “only consider imposing further restrictions if that figure looked like it could rise above 50,000”.

The Government’s cost-benefit analysis on Covid measures is believed to set not only the acceptable level of cost to save the life of a Covid patient at up to £30,000, but also how much each life lost costs the U.K. economy.

It is understood the analysis shows that the cost of keeping the annual death rate below 50,000 would outweigh the cost to the U.K. economy of allowing it to rise above this level.

As i revealed earlier this month, the Government has put contingency plans in place should the rate of infection and deaths rise to an “unacceptable level”.

The source said: “The Prime Minister is minded to implement another lockdown or new restrictions only if the figure of annual deaths looks like it’s going to go above 50,000. That means deaths from Covid of 137 a day, or just under 1,000 a week.

“However, it won’t be an immediate reaction. A sustained rate of death of around a 1,000 a week for two or three weeks will, though, lead to discussion on restrictions being reimposed. Unfortunately, prime ministers have to weigh up the cost of saving lives to the impact on the economy. No one wants to talk about that’s how it works.” …

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “There is no set number of acceptable deaths from Covid.”

But one of the Government’s most senior scientific advisers has also suggested the cost of saving lives could be a factor in the strategy.

Worth reading in full.

The Figures Don’t Match Up To the Fear, a Doctor Writes

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, who says the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not only failed to arrive after ‘Freedom Day’, but we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once remarked: “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” I have been reflecting on that comment, now we are three weeks since the inappropriately named July 19th ‘Freedom Day’. Readers will remember the cacophony of shrieking from assorted ‘health experts’ prophesying certain doom and a tidal wave of acute Covid admissions that would overwhelm our beleaguered NHS within a fortnight. Representatives from the World Health Organisation described the approach as “epidemiologically stupid”. A letter signed by 1,200 self-defined experts was published in the Lancet predicting imminent catastrophe.

Accordingly, this week I thought I should take a look at how the apocalypse is developing and then make some general observations on the centrality of trust and honesty in medical matters.

Let’s start with daily admissions to hospitals from the community in Graph One. Daily totals on the blue bars, seven-day rolling average on the orange line. Surprisingly the numbers are lower than on July 19th. How can that be?

Perhaps there are more patients stacking up in hospitals – sicker patients tend to stay longer and are hard to discharge, so the overall numbers can build up rather quickly. So, Graph Two shows Covid inpatients up to August 5th. Readers should note that Graph Two includes patients suffering from acute Covid (about 75% of the total) plus patients in hospital for non-Covid related illness, but testing positive for Covid (the remaining 25%). How strange – numbers seem to be falling, not rising. This does not fit with the hypothesis – what might explain this anomalous finding?

Maybe the numbers of patients in ICU might be on the increase – after all, both the Beta variant and the Delta variant were said to be both more transmissible and more deadly than the Alpha variant. Graph Three shows patients in ICU in English Hospitals up to August 5th. It shows a similar pattern to Graph Two – a small fall in overall patient numbers in the last two weeks. I looked into the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre ICU audit report up to July 30th. This confirms the overall impression from the top line figures. Older patients do not seem to be getting ill with Covid. Over half the admissions to ICU with Covid have body mass indices over 30. Severe illness is heavily skewed to patients with co-morbidities and the unvaccinated. Generally speaking, the patients have slightly less severe illness, shorter stays and lower mortality so far.

Finally, we look at Covid related deaths since January 1st, 2021, in Graph Four. A barely discernable increase since the beginning of April.

So, whatever is going on with respect to the progress of the pandemic, the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not arrived yet – in fact, we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

Public Health Scotland Adds 85 Unvaccinated Deaths in a Week as it “Updates” its Reporting

Last week I reported on the latest data from Public Health Scotland (PHS), which showed that 87% of the deaths added in the most recent week (July 9th-15th) were in the vaccinated (one or two doses) and 74% were in the double vaccinated. I estimated from this that the vaccine effectiveness against death was a surprisingly low 46%, though acknowledged that this was a very crude estimate based only on one week’s data.

This week’s update is now out from PHS, and the data is surprising to say the least. Whereas in the week July 9th-15th, 38 deaths were added, only five of which were in the unvaccinated, just one of those aged over 70, in the week July 16th-22nd, 141 deaths were added, 85 of them in the unvaccinated, 78 of those aged over 70. This kind of change from one week to the next is obviously anomalous and presumably reflects some kind of reporting artefact.

Indeed, it turns out that PHS announced an update to their COVID-19 reporting on July 28th, which they said would be reflected in this week’s report and would include a “one off increase in reported deaths”.

This means we can discount the weekly change implied by this week’s report and resume our effort to deduce the vaccine effectiveness against death from next week.