Elderly deaths dominate Covid-19 statistics despite claims of undercounting

Elderly people. especially those with other medical conditions (most old people do) are most at risk from the Covid-19 virus, and aged care homes and hospitals have been badly hit in many countries.

And counting deaths has been controversial. Official deaths in France shot up when they started including deaths in aged care facilities as well as hospital deaths.

Similar undercounting is now being claimed in the UK – Care home deaths ‘far higher’ than official figures

The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.

Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths.

Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April.

The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.

It collected data from care homes looking after more than 30,000 people in the UK, representing 7.4% of those people living in one of the country’s thousands of care settings.

It said that, across those specific homes, in the week between 7 April and 13 April, there had been 299 deaths linked to coronavirus. That was treble the figure for the previous week and double that in the whole of the preceding month.

If that number was reflected across all residential and nursing homes, NCF estimated there have been 4,040 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes which are not yet included in official figures.

The official death count for the UK is currently 16,060, with only the US, Italy, Spain and France having more deaths, with deaths of the elderly.

According to Worldometer Covid totals Belgium has the highest number of deaths per capita, currently on 490 deaths per 1 million population. Spain has 437, Italy 391, France 302, UK 237 and the US 122.

Why is Belgium so high? In part possible due to how they are counting – see Why is Belgium a Europe hotspot for COVID-19 deaths?

Dr Raf De Keersmaecker, chairman of the Limburg Province Association of GPs, knows of many colleagues who have caught COVID, some ending up in hospital.

He has a firm theory on why Belgium’s death rate is so high compared to other countries – greater transparency.

He said: “We record everything. Deaths everywhere, not just in hospitals.”

And that includes deaths suspected to be from COVID but not actually tested. More of those deaths are in care homes.

Dr De Keersmaecker said: “If we think the people are dying of COVID, we count it.

“Of course, that (accounts for) the higher level of dead people in our country.

“In most countries they don’t do that. They only take deaths from the hospitals. We even have people dying at home.”

The big problem in Europe is the spread of Covid to aged care facilities.

Euronews: Care homes could be where over half of Europe’s COVID-19 deaths occur, says new study

He said: “We record everything. Deaths everywhere, not just in hospitals.”

And that includes deaths suspected to be from COVID but not actually tested. More of those deaths are in care homes.

Dr De Keersmaecker said: “If we think the people are dying of COVID, we count it.

“Of course, that (accounts for) the higher level of dead people in our country.

“In most countries they don’t do that. They only take deaths from the hospitals. We even have people dying at home.”

In Belgium, 90 percent of care homes have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 42 percent of the country’s deaths from the disease have come from within them.

The rate is close to 45 percent in France, which was one of the first countries to disclose the number of deaths in its care homes, Comas-Herrara said.

In Italy, her study estimates that more than 9,500 care home residents died as a result of COVID-19, or 53 percent of the country’s total death toll.

In Ireland, care homes accounted for 54 percent of deaths and more than half of the “clusters” of the virus identified nationwide.

There are no official estimates for COVID-19 related mortality in care homes in Spain, but regional data reported by the media suggests that nursing home residents account for 57 percent of deaths – the highest share among the countries studied.

In the UK, “there’s no real reason to expect the percentage to be much different” from the average found across other European countries, Comas-Herrara said.

The UK government has come under criticism for underestimating the actual toll from the virus, as the daily figures it releases only include deaths in hospitals, not nursing homes or other settings.

New Zealand is counting all deaths believed to have been from Covid. The total is currently 12 which now includes a man who died at home and was confirmed yesterday to have had Covid.


Official counts of deaths in Europe have just passed a hundred thousand (currently 101,742) and cases have just passed a million (currently 1,085,143). The latter will certainly be a lot higher with many undetected cases, but it seems the deaths could also be significantly higher as well.

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10 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th April 2020

    Some people in care homes want to die.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  20th April 2020

      sure they don’t care.
      Ryman and co make millions on the reality…’no one gets out alive’!

      Reply
      • Conspiratoor

         /  20th April 2020

        The license to occupy model that rymans et al operate under relies on turnover for profit. Pay up and die ….quick

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  20th April 2020

          Yes, truly a “reverse mortgage”. But they do give a good standard of life while you spend the kids inheritance, better than many of the others my in house medic tells me.

          Reply
        • That doesn’t make sense, Con. The longer one is in there, the more one spends, and a bed in any rented accommodation is a very perishable commodity.

          If the ‘kids’ want the money, Alan, nothing’s stopping them having mum or dad to live with them.

          Reply
    • duperez

       /  20th April 2020

      Some people in care homes want to die. Another thesis for study!

      How many? Gender breakdown? Age breakdown? How many the day after mince on toast was the meal? How many who had more than three siblings? There could be a doctorate in it. Meanwhile, some people not in care homes want to die.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  20th April 2020

        Been in one, dups? When I was young (13?) I visited one as a project and talked to some of the old folks there and it was a pretty sobering and sad experience for a kid. And Mrs Al managed one for a couple of years in her own unique way which was probably not like anything they had experienced before or will again. But however well it is managed a lot of the inhabitants have lost most of what made life worthwhile in faculties, health, activities and relationships. It doesn’t take a doctoral thesis to find that out.

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  20th April 2020

          Quite a while back I visited a place with a lot of stroke victims. Older than 13 but young enough to get a sudden different perspective. And later wrote:

          Mumbling in other wards
          as bones move under tired grey skin
          and push out words, lost and jumbled,
          falling into stinking, hygienic air.
          Ashen crater eyes, dormant, extinct … (etc)

          Reply
          • I visited one as one of a group carol singing some years ago. Someone (probably me) had told the vicar, an ill-educated woman, the original meaning of ‘awful’.

            At the end of the carols, she told the oldies to have ‘an awful Christmas…an awwwwwful Christmas.’

            Their faces were a study as they heard this extraordinary Christmas wish and tried not to look as if they thought that she had gone completely mad.

            Reply
  2. Pink David

     /  20th April 2020

    31 old people left to die alone by staff fleeing because of fear of Covid 19.

    Reply

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