A review into how the UK coronavirus death figures were calculated showed total number of fatalities from the virus were too high. After the review, the UK Government announced that the total death toll from the virus was 41,329 as of August 12. The previous figure was 46,706, meaning a 12 percent drop in total deaths.
The UK Government has now introduced a different method for calculating deaths from COVID-19 as a result of the review’s findings.
The new definition of a coronavirus death is someone who dies 28 days after a positive diagnosis.
The new measure also brings England’s calculations in line with other UK nations.
Previously, the UK was counting any death that occurred after a positive diagnosis as a COVID-19 death, regardless of cause.
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Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, defended the original method of calculating deaths.
He said: “The way we count deaths in people with COVID-19 in England was originally chosen to avoid underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages of the pandemic.”
Now the new method of calculating deaths would give “crucial information about recent trends and the overall mortality burden due to COVID-19”.
PHE has also argued that there is no straightforward way to calculate coronavirus deaths.
Prof Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, hailed the two new measures as “sensible”.
He added: “The 28 days is widely used in many countries and England is now the same as the rest of the UK.
“The previous measure of always being a COVID death, even if recovered, was unscientific.
“As COVID deaths fall, the number of recovered patients, particularly the very old and those with severe underlying conditions, are now dying from these conditions and not COVID-19.”
Prof Neal went on to say that non-coronavirus deaths in survivors would have become a larger statistic in English deaths, and was “essentially useless for epidemiological monitoring”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered the review into the extra deaths last month.
Analysis of data in England found 96 percent of deaths occurred within 60 days or had COVID-19 on the death certificate.
Within 28 days, 88 percent of deaths from the virus took place.
Overall, the UK has seen a total of 315,564 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.