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.

Business and the economy versus the ill, elderly and others

There’s no doubt that Covid-19 will have a very large impact on businesses and employment and livelihoods in New Zealand, and our economy will take a big hit. This will have happened regardless of the actions taken by the Government. It’s debatable what would be worse, doing more or doing less to limit the spread and infection rates.

It is also likely there will be deaths here. There are currently 368 confirmed and probably cases. Many of those will be mild to moderate and are being treated at home. Some are more serious and require hospitalisation.

Even with the relatively stringent lockdown cases are expected to rise for the next 7-10 days (or more if people flout the restrictions on movement away from home).

There is no doubt that without the level 4 lock down there would be a lot more spread, many more people catching the virus, and a real risk of quite a few deaths.  This shows how easily it can spread even with restrictions:

Marist College, Auckland – 18 confirmed cases, 1 probable
Private wedding, Wellington – 10 confirmed cases, 2 probable
Rest home, Hamilton – 11 confirmed cases

Older people and people with existing medical conditions (especially lung or heart) are particularly susceptible to Covid-19, but this is hardly surprising, they are also more susceptible to other viruses and illnesses. Younger people seem to generally have milder symptoms – but they can still spread the virus.

There have been suggestions that the virus should be left to take it’s course, to build ‘herd immunity’. This must accept an inevitable casualty rate – people would die, possible quite a few people.

It has been suggested elsewhere and also here that it isn’t a big deal that old people and people with illnesses might die of Covid-19. They die of other things anyway, Covid will just knock them off a bit sooner.

From Australia Victoria’s first two coronavirus deaths were cancer patients caught in Alfred hospital outbreak

Victoria’s first two coronavirus deaths were cancer patients at The Alfred hospital, and a further five cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among patients and staff.

Duker commented on this:

Bingo! It seems like northern Italy all over again, the sick people get sicker and the elderly have less chance to recover.
It’s a fact of life and one day it will be my turn.

I’m quite disturbed by this attitude.

It’s a fundamental fact of life that we will all die, eventually.

But it is also a fundamental facet of a decent society that we don’t just do nothing to prevent old and ill people dying of any new virus or disease, treating them as expendable.

We put huge budgets and resources into health care to try to keep everyone alive as long as reasonably possible.

People who get old often live to get quite a bit older after having illnesses.

My father had most of his stomach removed in the 1980s, had a bowel cancer operation in the early 1990s, his lungs were fag fucked with emphysema, but he still had a fairly good life up until 2000.

In the mid-90s he was given a choice of having chemotherapy which would give him a 60% chance of not dying of cancer, or doing nothing and lowering his chances to 40%. He chose not to have chemo because he didn’t want to suffer through the treatment with a close to 50/50 chance it wouldn’t save him anyway. But this was his choice, and I think a sensible one.

If a Covid-like virus had hot the country then and I was given a choice of saving my business (I was a sole trader than) or saving his life I would have chosen his life. I had already changed jobs and moved so I could support him as his health problems increased (just after he had a mild stroke).

I’m sure there are many people who would put people before money in this way.

I think it would be terrible to let Covid-19 spread freely in New Zealand to try to reduce the impact on business and the economy.

I also think it would be misguided. If we didn’t have a lockdown and Covid-19 ran rampant here, as it almost certainly would, there would likely be hundreds if not thousands of deaths and many more hospitalisations. That in itself would be expensive.

If our hospitals were swamped with Covid cases – I presume no one things they should be left to suffer and die untreated – it would increase deaths by other causes because of lack of resources and treatment.

And if New Zealand was ravaged by Covid-19 there is no chance of tourism  recovering, no one would want to come here. New Zealanders would be banned from travelling to many countries. It’s likely exports would also be affected, air and sea transport would be badly compromised, and New Zealand would be an unpopular source of goods.

Internally if the virus was uncontrolled it would also have a major impact on travel and business. Many people would willingly keep away from places and businesses that were a risk to their health and life.

The main difference would not be economic impact, it would be whether the economic and employment was in a well controlled situation or chaotic and uncontrolled.

It’s debatable (and impossible to know) which would be economically worse, doing a lot to limit Covid-19 as we are, or doing much less or nothing.

Regardless of the economic factors and effects, we can’t just treat the elderly and the ill as expendable to try to save a few jobs and possibly (but probably not) keep the economy healthy.

“But the flu’ is trotted out by Trump and some here – but we have a choice of vaccinating against the flu and minimising our risks. We can’t do that with Covid. And because we could potentially die of something else, the flu (more often of complications), of cancer, of heart disease, is a very poor reason to not protect against a new threat.

If I was in a decision making position I certainly would put the health of citizens – especially the old and the ill – ahead of the economy. I back and applaud our Government and unanimous Parliament doing this.

No matter what the financial impact of Covid-19 measures, businesses will survive, new businesses will fill gaps, the economy will recover.

No one recovers from death.


Italy data shows elderly and those already ill at most risk

An analysis of deaths on Italy adds weight to what was already known – the elderly (especially over 70) and people with existing illnesses are most at risk from of dying from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The average age of victims was 80.5 in the group being studied and 79.5 overall.

One specific problem I’ve been told about (from a health source) is that there are cases where people put on ventilators have appeared to recover, are taken off the ventilator and then die due to stress on their heart.

MSN/Bloomberg: 99% of Those Who Died From Virus Had Other Illness, Italy Says

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is evaluating whether to extend a nationwide lockdown beyond the beginning of April, daily La Stampa reported Wednesday. Italy has more than 31,500 confirmed cases of the illness.

a close up of a logo: Italy Coronavirus Deaths

The Rome-based institute has examined medical records of about 18% of the country’s coronavirus fatalities, finding that just three victims, or 0.8% of the total, had no previous pathology. Almost half of the victims suffered from at least three prior illnesses and about a fourth had either one or two previous conditions.

More than 75% had high blood pressure, about 35% had diabetes and a third suffered from heart disease.

The average age of those who’ve died from the virus in Italy is 79.5.

But the biggest risk appears to be age (as people get older they tend to acquire illnesses) – especially to the 70+ age group.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Threat to the Elderly


As of March 17, 17 people under 50 had died from the disease.

So a very low number of younger people.

All of Italy’s victims under 40 have been males with serious existing medical conditions.

While data released Tuesday point to a slowdown in the increase of cases, with a 12.6% rise, a separate study shows Italy could be underestimating the real number of cases by testing only patients presenting symptoms.

According to the GIMBE Foundation, about 100,000 Italians have contracted the virus, daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported. That would bring back the country’s death rate closer to the global average of about 2%.

So it looks like if you are healthy and under about 70 then the risks are low.

But people with existing illnesses, especially if they are over 70, are high risk.

This means that those people in particular should be especially cautious about what they do to help ensure that don’t catch the virus. Many people are self isolating to protect themselves.