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Covid-19 in the UK in May 2020

We’re starting this thread a couple of days early, because here in the United Kingdom a variety of things have changed regarding the reporting of Covid-19 “statistics”.

First of all the daily reports from the Department of Health and Social Care: now include “all deaths where a positive test for COVID-19 has been confirmed”, not just those “in hospital”. As the explanation on the DHSC web site puts it:

From 29 April 2020, DHSC are publishing as their daily announced figures on deaths from COVID-19 for the UK a new series that uses improved data for England produced by Public Health England (PHE). These figures provide a count of all deaths where a positive test for COVID-19 has been confirmed, wherever that death has taken place. Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already begun to include deaths outside hospitals, so this change will ensure that the UK-wide series has a shared and common definitional coverage. This updated statement explains what the new data are and how they differ from both the data series previously published by DHSC and the figures produced by the ONS.

Separately, to improve the timely availability of data on deaths in care homes involving COVID-19, the ONS and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) agreed to publish from 28 April 2020 provisional counts of deaths in care homes, based on statutory notifications by care home providers to CQC. A separate explanatory statement about these new data has been published jointly by the ONS and CQC.

In addition to that change there is now a new section of the UK Government web site devoted to “National COVID-19 surveillance reports“. The most recent report at the moment:

Summarises the information from the surveillance systems which are used to monitor the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in England.

The report is based on week 16 (data between 13 April and 19 April 2020) and where available daily data up to 22 April 2020.

COVID-19 is the disease name and SARS-CoV-2 is the virus name.

The report includes sections devoted to UK “Community surveillance”, “Primary care surveillance”, “Secondary care surveillance”, “Virological surveillance” and “Mortality surveillance”. In the latter section it points out that:

In week 16 2020 in England, statistically significant excess mortality by week of death above the upper 2 z-score threshold was seen overall, by age group in the 15-64 and 65+ year olds and sub nationally (all ages) in all regions (North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humber, East & West Midlands, East of England, London and South East & West regions) after correcting GRO disaggregate data for reporting delay with the standardised EuroMOMO algorithm (Figure 18). This data is provisional due to the time delay in registration; numbers may vary from week to week.

The recent “spike” appears to be statistically significant! However despite that, this report and the rest of the virtual paperwork emanating from the UK Government still fail to address the question we posed last week:

How will the UK Government build on the amazing community solidarity we have seen in the past few weeks and reassure the citizens of the nation that lifting the lockdown won’t result in further out-of-control outbreaks?

Whilst we continue to wait for an answer, here are the new “positive test” daily death numbers from the DHSC:

They do of course beg the question of how many “untested” deaths due to Covid-19 are occurring. Regular readers will be aware that we have been following the modelled future death projections of James Annan. Here’s his first update using the DHSC’s new numbers:

[Edit – May 5th]

The Office for National Statistics have released their latest weekly “death certificate” data. Here are the “main points” from their report:

  • The provisional number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 24 April 2020 (Week 17) was 21,997, a decrease of 354 deaths registered compared with the previous week (Week 16); this is the first decrease in the number of deaths since the week ending 20 March 2020 (Week 12) but is 11,539 more than the five-year average for Week 17.
  • Of the deaths registered in Week 17, 8,237 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, which is 37.4% of all deaths; this is a decrease of 521 deaths compared with Week 16 (39.2% of all deaths).
  • The number of deaths in care homes (from all causes) for Week 17 was 7,911, which is 595 higher than Week 16. The number of deaths in hospitals for Week 17 was 8,243, which is 1,191 lower than Week 16.
  • In London, over half (50.5%) of deaths registered in Week 17 involved COVID-19; the North West and North East also had a high proportion of COVID-19 deaths, accounting for 38.8% and 38.0%, respectively, of deaths registered in these regions.
  • In Wales, there were 413 deaths registered in Week 17 involving COVID-19, accounting for 36.7% of all deaths registered in Wales.
  • Of deaths involving COVID-19 registered up to Week 17, 71.8% (19,643 deaths) occurred in hospital with the remainder mainly occurring in care homes (5,890 deaths), private homes (1,306 deaths) and hospices (301 deaths).

Here are those numbers in graphic detail:

[Edit – May 12th]

The latest weekly Covid-19 update has been issued by the Office for National Statistics. Here’s the summary on Twitter:

33,337 / 21,647 = 1.54

[Edit – May 19th]

The latest weekly update from the ONS has been published:

Plus some additional detail:

Deaths in care homes made up 36.0% of all deaths in Week 17, 35.7% in Week 18 and 33.6% in Week 19 (Figure 7). Between Week 18 and Week 19, the number of deaths in care homes decreased by 33.7% to 4,248. However, the proportion of care home deaths that involved COVID-19 continued to increase, and 39.2% of all deaths in care homes involved COVID-19 in Week 19.

Watch this space!