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Excess deaths revisited - Covid has killed a lot of people

Continuing the discussion from This seems like a good summary of the denialist case:

So, I just re-watched the Ivor Cummins video from a month ago to try and suss out what his take on the excess mortality was. Turns out there is still a lot to say on this, and I now think that Cummins is a bit misleading on the subject.

For those who aren’t interested in the details, we have 2 situations that Cummins is saying are broadly similar:

  • scenario1: 7K deaths per week over 21 weeks spread out over the entire geography of the EU, leading to a total of 140K excess deaths.
  • scenario2: 18K deaths per week over an 11 week period, highly clustered in a few cities and hospitals, leading to a total of 220K excess deaths (and counting)

These scenarios are not easily comparable. Scenario 1 is business as usual, and what normal looks like. Scenario 2 is chaos. What we saw, in fact. Remember that countries took precisely zero efforts to slow or stop the spread of the illness in 2018, while by contrast in 2020 the EU took monumental efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. And yet, Covid-19 still killed 80,000 more people so far, with an unknown number who will still die from it.

Looking into the detail, we can look a little more closely at the data from the exact same source that Cummins cited.

Illness Total excess deaths Period over which deaths occured Average deaths / week
Influenza 2018 120K (+20K from 2017) 16 (+5 from 2017) weeks 7K
Covid-19 220K (plus an unknown still to come) 11 weeks 18K

(I’ve fudged the numbers slightly, as the covid data has 2 distinct periods with the vast majority of deaths occurring in the first period. It doesn’t really make a difference to the points I’m making however)

There’s a column I’m missing from the table above - where did the deaths occur geographically? From what I know so far, they seem to be much more clustered than the flu, with big cities being hit the hardest.

So, I think the data shows clearly that there has been a big surge in deaths over the EU this year. And the year is not over. Hospitalisations are rising exponentially in the UK, and we are expecting to hit capacity in the north of England within 10-14 days. That could easily lead to another surge in deaths here, at least.

Again, from the very site that Cummins uses as his data souce, we can see the above data in picture format.

You can’t look at the last chart and tell me that 2018 and 2020 are comparable. And the Covid story is not over yet…