Guest Post: Excess, non-Covid19 deaths

A guest post by KrazyKiwi:

It would be fair to say the number of leading doctors, epidemiologists and social scientists questioning the societal impact of the lockdown is starting to increase. At the same time there is an emerging appetite for the media to give these voices room to compete with what has to-date been a predominantly government-led narrative. Being something of a data junkie, I have approached the topic of accessing the lockdown harm by looking at raw mortality data. Most countries publish this material regularly, the best of which do so weekly. New Zealand does not publish on this frequency, so I have been analysing the UK’s Office of National Statistics weekly mortality records. These are published on a Tuesday night NZT, covering the current year’s weeks ending 10 days prior. So not real-time, but close. This year’s data includes analysis of deaths that ‘involve Covid19’. In the UK ‘involve’ can mean anything from a 60-year year old, diagnosed with Covid19 and with co-morbidities dying in hospital, through to someone passing away in a rest home with a local GP suspecting Covid19, and without any testing designating it as such on the death certificate. It is usual to consider the excess mortalities rate (‘EMR’) for this analysis, ie the deaths above some multi-year average. The ONS uses a five year average which includes a particularly lethal 2018-19 flu season. Even so, the UKs EMR currently exceeds the 5-year average by a wide margin. For example, in Week-17 the 5-year average number of mortalities is 10,457. In 2020 Week-17 21,997 people died giving us an EMR of 11,540. What is surprising however is that removal the loosely attributed and possibly overstated Covid19 deaths reveal a statistically significant excess of UK residents now dying without the virus playing any role in their passing. Week-17 saw 8,237 deaths attributed to Covid19, meaning that there were 3,303 excess deaths not attributable to the virus. So far this year there have been 13,245 excess, non-Covid19 deaths representing around 25% of the overall EMR. What could be causing this? Empty hospital beds are a clue, as are the number of people dying at home because they have been asked to delay seeking treatment, or they are unwilling to ‘risk’ going to hospital on account of Covid19. Social isolation coupled with anxiety resulting from job losses, business failures and loss of retirement savings have a well-documented impact on suicide statistics. Economic downturns impact the quality and availability of healthcare thereby increasing mortality. These factors will persist in contributing to untimely deaths long after Covid19 has become a stable diet of documentaries and of epidemiology case-studies. New Zealand and the UK have different population densities, different volumes of international visitors, dissimilar use of crowded public transport, different air quality and seasons. These factors will have been a significant in our rather different Covid19 death rates. But the environmental benefits we enjoy in terms of limiting Covid19s spread are of no help limiting the societal and economic consequences of the lockdown. Indeed, the New Zealand lockdown is expected to cause proportionally more economic damage than the UK, with the IMF observing:
New International Monetary Fund projections show the depth of pain New Zealand’s economy will feel due to the , forecasting a contraction on 7.2 per cent this year. ::: The IMF believes New Zealand will see the biggest fall outside of Europe, except for Venezuela, an economy already in freefall.
On that basis we should expect an EMR profile similar to, or possibly worse than what is occurring in the UK. New Zealand’s population is 7.2% of that of the UK and where the UK is currently experiencing 3303 excess, non-Covid19 deaths each week, New Zealand can proportionally expect to be experiencing 237 excess, non-Covid19 deaths each week. This is simplistic analysis, and there are factors that could suppress or exacerbate this number, but one thing is clear: the number of non-Covid19 deaths in New Zealand will be many orders of magnitude greater than the number who will die of the disease. At a political level we have seen this government late to apply a brute-force lockdown, then extending it so as appear ‘strong’. This ill-founded strategy will without doubt be killing New Zealanders. A Royal Commission of Enquiry is desperately needed to assess the basis on which critical decisions were made, and to recommend how to prevent another government-led tragedy being visited upon current and future generations.

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