Saturday 30 April 2022

Saying farewell to Covid again

Every time I call time on the Covid pandemic another variant shows up so let's hope that doesn't happen now that I have written what I hope is my last article about it for the Spectator...

James O’Brien, LBC’s pied piper of mid-wits, told his listeners on 22 April that ‘646 people died yesterday’ of Covid-19. He acknowledged that official statistics showed that the infection rate was falling, but muttered conspiratorially that he was ‘a little bit confused about how we’re keeping a proper handle on the number of infections now given that most of us have stopped testing’.

If even Mr O’Brien, whose books include How To Be Right and How Not To Be Wrong, is still confused by Covid statistics after two years, what hope is there for those us who didn’t attend a top public school? Sure enough, Twitter was awash with people repeating the 646 deaths figure and rebutting claims about falling infection rates with the words ‘we’re not testing’.

Anyone with an internet connection and mild curiosity knows this to be nonsense. The number of people in the UK who have died with Covid-19 written on their death certificate has not exceeded 200 a day since January 2022 and has not exceeded 300 a day since February 2021. Under the alternative measure of ‘deaths within 28 days of a positive test’, the figure has only exceeded 300 twice in the last year, but that metric has become increasingly misleading since the highly infectious Omicron variant became dominant.

Even the death certificate figures overstate the scale of the problem. In previous waves, Covid-19 was the underlying cause of around 90 per cent of deaths when the disease was listed on the death certificate. In recent weeks it has fallen below 65 per cent.

There were not 646 Covid-related deaths on 21 April, nor anything close to it. Instead, there was a backlog of reported deaths following a bank holiday weekend. No deaths were reported on Good Friday, Saturday, Easter Sunday or Monday. If you still haven’t got the hang of this after all this time, you should probably keep your opinions to yourself.


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