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.