Slovakia has just put rocket boosters under their COVID deaths. Within two weeks they've gone from virtually zero deaths to rates as high as Peru and Brazil had at their peak. So what happened?
Mass population testing was begun which resulted in 8x as many tests per day as were done at peak in Brazil. The tests were not perfect (none are) and so a percentage were labelled as positive when they did not have COVID. Some died. That's all that has happened. Slovakia is safe
Slovenia on the other hand rolled out mass testing and then decided it had been a bad idea.
We need to stop comparing 2020 deaths with 2015 deaths. It's an unreasonable baseline.
Plus 'excess deaths' needs to be explained. They are not really 'excess' if it happens with every flu season. As long as we are not exceeding normal flu excesses then they are not really excess deaths.
The ONS have produced a thorough piece of research into non-COVID excess deaths. It is important work. Immense harm has been caused by changes in behaviour and people have died (and are still dying) as a result.
A&E attendances fell from the beginning of March. At the end of February we were told to isolate if we, those we shared a household with had a cough or fever.
That meant people with coughs and fevers were dissuaded from attending A&E. It also meant that healthcare were understaffed. With increasing numbers of us falling ill this had a large effect. Ambulance response times tripled to an average of an hour. thetimes.co.uk/article/reveal…
Test always perform worse than hoped when used in real world situations. What's key here is that the antibody tests used pre-COVID blood as a negative control. They were designed to say anyone with prior immunity was 'negative'. They tell us who had COVID not who is immune now.
But PHE went one step further. Instead of testing for just the unique spike protein antibodies they tested for all the COVID proteins. They found more than half of people who had no symptoms in spring (ie were immune) had antibodies. thelancet.com/journals/eclin…
Here is the acute respiratory outbreak from PHE. First look at winter - the peak of acute respiratory infections (diagnosed through symptoms) is about 200 per week. Then we had COVID with a massive care home spike, peaking at 1200 a week.
Now we have this:
1400 outbreaks a week. Diagnosed not by symptoms but by positive test results. And where are these outbreaks? Care homes and hospitals are being tested regularly so will have test positive outbreaks regularly.
It looks a lot like where we are seeing 'COVID' deaths at the moment. Look at London, South West, North West, North East, Wales in particular. But this is a map of COPD - a chronic respiratory disease.
Don't get tested on a Friday or Saturday. Here are the percentage of positive tests in Scotland. There's a weekly cycle.
You're twice as likely to test positive on a Friday than on a Sunday. Once a week the lab will have a thorough clean and will bring out new chemicals for testing. I think I know which day they're doing that.
This is a result of a) PCR testing being a difficult test to do with only the tiniest amount of material needed to contaminate results and b) laboratories being under huge pressure to process volumes of tests at speed. Either volume or speed must be compromised to enable quality.
The excess deaths we are currently seeing are in young people; older women; and strokes, heart attacks and diabetes. There are fewer respiratory deaths than normal for the time of year. COVID killed old men and is a respiratory disease. This is not COVID.
Liverpool University Trust has had the most COVID deaths since September of any NHS trust. From 01/09/20 until 25/10/20 there have been 140 'COVID' deaths. This is 27% of all the COVID deaths since March. No excess mortality.
Here are some hypotheses:
a) these are not COVID deaths but misdiagnoses
b) COVID is killing people who would have died otherwise and beating influenza to it. The new 'old man's friend' that was influenza.
c) People are dying with COVID not of COVID
In spring, the death rate per week was double normal for the over 55s. What is happening now?
Recent COVID deaths appear to have risen since week 36.
It is worth comparing this pattern to the pattern of % positive tests. The rise in positive tests starts in week 36. There has been no lag between this rise in positive tests and resulting rise in % of COVID deaths as proportion of mean 2015-2019 deaths.