There are bald Coronavirus facts… and there are meaningful facts.
I continue to believe facts matter in any intelligent debate.
On Tuesday the ONS published its weekly data on deaths in England and Wales. The analysis of the data shows that the total number of deaths so far this year is still LESS THAN IN THE MILD ’FLU EPIDEMIC of 2015 when the figures are adjusted for population growth.
HOWEVER, Tuesday’s headline from the BBC was “Coronavirus: Deaths at 20-year high but peak may be over”. This is only true if you are a journalism operation which parrots what it is sent in the form of press releases.
Headlines always matter
It is essential to point out that the majority of people in the country do not read every article published on every subject. Many people form impressions based on headlines they see in the papers or hear on the TV and radio news.
In fact, the BBC article linked to above is better than many it has produced in recent years, but it nevertheless states that
“The figures show that the overall number of deaths topped 18,500. That is the highest since January 2000 when there was a bad flu outbreak. It is also much higher than the recent bad flu season of 2015.”
Journalists can’t be bothered to think for themselves these days and do some research, this is broadly true in absolute, factual terms. What it doesn’t do is present the reality for the public. Once again I have tried to give some sense of context and proportionality in the chart below.
There are bald Coronavirus facts… and there are meaningful facts
2015 was the last year we had a mild ‘flu epidemic
28,330 died from ‘flu in the 2015 season
As of Tuesday, ONS reported that 18,516 had died in the UK “with” the Coronavirus
The BBC reported “Coronavirus: Deaths at 20-year high”
When adjusted for population growth death rates were not even at a 5-year high
The simple fact is that the total of 2020 deaths from all causes is still less than the total 2015 deaths to the same date when adjusted for the large population growth this century.
In the chart below shown in red the actual number of deaths to 10 Apr 2020 (latest figures), according to the ONS’s latest data for England and Wales released Tuesday.
To the left of this in navy blue I show the adjusted number of deaths to the same date in 2015 — the last time there was a mild ’flu epidemic. I took the official figure for 2015 to the same date as the 2020 figure and then adjusted it upwards to account for the population growth since then.
In other words, we’re comparing the deaths in the population in 2015 and 2020 on an “apples-for-apples” basis.
The biggest killer this year will not be Coronavirus
Many, many more times as many people will die from the biggest killers in the UK than from the Coronavirus.
If we look at all the principal causes of death in the last year for which detailed official figures are available we find In England & Wales alone over 550,000 people will die in an average year
We will lose over 272,000 people this year to the UK’s biggest killers: cancer, dementia, and heart disease
Coronavirus deaths won’t even come remotely close to this number
(Boring statistical note) The actual number of deaths to the latest official data date (10 Apr) in 2015 was 179,612. Between 2015 and 2020 the population has continued to grow. The latest population figures from the ONS run to 2018. Take the average growth rate over the last 10 years to produce population figures for 2019 and 2020. This then uplifts the 2015 death numbers to a figure which gives a much more accurate comparison with figures from previous years.
The media used to harp on about Brexiteers being immigration-obsessed racists and xenophobes
Given that the United Kingdom population has continued to grow each year, and given that mass immigration has been a hot topic since before the EU Referendum which took place almost four years ago now, readers might expect the BBC, Sky, ITN and others to take this into account when presenting information on the most devastating event in most of our lifetimes.
They didn’t. Hence them reporting that the number of deaths was the largest since the year 2000. It wasn’t, after adjusting for population growth. To compare deaths to 20 years ago, before millions entered our country from the EU and other countries, does not seem to me to present a realistic picture for anyone.
Understanding the context, making proportionate decisions
I believe that it is essential to view an all-devouring crisis like Coronavirus in context at all times. Only then can politicians make the right judgement calls in the knowledge that the public are likely to be behind them.
As ever I must stress that I am are just as caring as anyone reading this and that, of course, every death is a personal tragedy. However, this does not mean that we should all give up our critical faculties when assessing the information we are being given.
I believe that readers should have some facts which more properly reflect the true state of play right now in terms of the Coronavirus. If the BBC, Sky, ITN, and others will not do some basic work then someone has to.
Oh, and the graphs which continue to be presented at the №10 press conferences which are televised each day are almost too embarrassing for words. Do the “Scientific” officers advising the government who present these things seriously think that the majority of the public have a clue what they mean? I have found that over the many years I have been following and writing about climate change “Scientific” officers in that realm of science use graphs to bamboozle the public they look nice, neat and completely irrelevant to the majority of the public who just want to be reassured. Just like the scientists in the sphere of climate change, the medical Scientific” officers crunch the numbers in computer modelling that then produces graphs to pin to the wall, pin to the windows in their offices or just to roll out to the public.
There is one very glaring problem with computer modelling, the data has to be spot on or they are of no use………….they look nice though don't they, personally I would use the printed out graphs as bum wipes because over the years that I followed climate change and the science behind it I know that the data put in any computer modelling can be manipulated to suit a Warmegedinists narrative. But bless they do look nice.
I continue to believe that the situation on deaths will get worse before it gets better. I just want to ensure that the country’s response to the Coronavirus is based on some sense of proportionality, overall as it stands today it's nowhere near that.
Sources: Office for National Statistics, BBC