Community coronavirus deaths ‘as high as hospital death toll’, expert warns – The Sun

AS many people are dying of coronavirus in care homes and at home as in hospital, an expert has warned.

Putting his "neck out", Cambridge University Professor, Sir David Spiegelhalter said community deaths could be "like-for-like" with hospital deaths – meaning the true toll is much higher.

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Experts said mislabelling on death certificates and a lack of "traditional" symptoms as well as fear of hospitals, could be driving up community deaths.

It comes as new figures published today by he Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed the official death toll is likely to be more than 50 per cent higher than NHS figures. 

Reflecting on the new stats, Sir David said there has been a "shift of deaths from hospitals to communities".

He said the number of people now dying at home of coronavirus could be like-for-like, compared to those dying in hospitals.

Tonight, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that the daily official death toll will now include all deaths in care homes and the community from tomorrow.

The daily death toll hit 21,678 today, as 161,145 people have so far tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Department of Health.

But the ONS figures suggest that number could be nearer 32,000 when all deaths outside of hospital are taken into account.

Hidden toll

Sir David said: "I would put my neck out and say there are now as many Covid-labelled deaths occurring out of hospital than there are occurring inside hospitals in England."

He said around 1,400 people died at home of coronavirus between April 7 to April 17. Meanwhile, in the week leading up to April 17, 3,096 people died of coronavirus in care homes.

Care homes are recording around 300-400 deaths a day from coronavirus, Sir David added.

He also said there had been thousands more "excess deaths" than the UK normally has per year – around 3,000 in the week ending April 17, some of which are likely from coronavirus.

"Over a quarter of excess deaths did not have Covid mentioned on their death certificate, that amounts to 3,000 more than we expect," he said.

"Which is a lot given the average (excess deaths) in a year would be 10,000 normally."

"I'm not yet willing to say what proportion of these deaths that would have otherwise occurred in hospitals and happened anyway, what proportion of deaths of these would not have happened (at all) and which of these are an under-diagnosis of people not being labelled (as having) Covid."

Scared of hospitals

University of Oxford Professor Carl Heneghan said elderly people tended to display symptoms of coronavirus very late, or very differently, compared to younger people with healthier immune symptoms, leading to under-reporting.

He said: "In the elderly temperature tends to be a very late sign, and if you think about it young children have (high) temperatures because they have a very active immune system.

"In the elderly the immune system takes some time to crank up, traditional symptoms and signs are often absent and there is a plausible potential that some people will have COVID-19 and not display any of the signs we're looking for."

He said symptoms such as loss of appetite could be "devastating" for elderly people and cause underreporting of deaths by coronavirus.

Prof Heneghan said there was a worrying phenomenon of excess deaths, which could have been caused by people being afraid to go to hospitals.

But, he added, some of those deaths will also be mislabelling of coronavirus.

Prof Heneghan said: "We've got 4,100 deaths, far more deaths in the home setting for non-covid deaths and that's concerning.

"What's happening there is it could be mislabelling but it could also be an impact of people not seeking care."

NHS is open for business

The Government has gone to great lengths to stress that the NHS is "open for business" for anyone who needs it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned anyone with urgent health concerns should not be afraid of going to hospital

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has said the ultimate death toll from coronavirus will be higher because of "indirect deaths" caused by people with other health conditions not getting the treatment they need.

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