Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 17, May 2, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

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Evidence around the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) carried a blog post on May 1 by Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician at the ONS, on improving evidence around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Iain Bell highlights how the ONS is providing information right down to a local level. It is important to note that this blog post comes in the context of the outrage that the government had not been including deaths in care homes and other places outside hospital in its figures of the victims of the pandemic, and in practice ignoring the concerns and raised voices of the nurses, doctors and other health and care workers about the scandal of the scale of the deaths and the lack of protection given to staff and the fact that many care homes, for example, have become death traps. Iain Bell says in his post:

"Raw statistics are often seen as just numbers. But behind every death, every number, in this pandemic is a human being and a tragic toll on a family and a community."

He writes: "Ten days ago, I set out our workplan for our analysis of deaths data and this week we have published two of the major commitments from that programme, focusing on deaths in care homes and today's article which covers deaths from Covid-19 by locality and deprivation of the area.

"Each of these show that the tragic toll of Covid-19 is not impacting communities equally.

"We have already seen that males more than females are dying from Covid-19 and that increases with age. We've published details of deaths in March where Covid-19 was the underlying cause, while this week we've been able to draw on Care Quality Commission (CQC) data to give fresh insight into deaths in England's care homes."

Asking what is known about urban and rural areas, Iain Bell writes:

"Today we've been able to go further and look at Covid-19 death rates at a local level. Our findings show, perhaps unsurprisingly, how different the impact of the virus has been, depending on where you live. By mid-April, the region with the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 was London, with the virus being involved in more than 4 in 10 deaths since the start of March. In contrast, the region with the lowest proportion of Covid-19 deaths was the South West, which saw just over 1 in 10 deaths involving coronavirus. The 11 local authorities with the highest mortality rates were all London boroughs, with Newham, Brent and Hackney suffering the highest rates of Covid-19 related deaths.

"Just as we see in normal times, it appears the pandemic is hitting more deprived areas harder. People living in more deprived areas have experienced Covid-19 mortality rates more than double those living in less deprived areas. General mortality rates are normally higher in more deprived areas, but so far Covid-19 appears to make a greater difference still between more deprived and least deprived areas."

On the question of care home data, Iain Bell writes:

"In recent weeks there has been a real pressure to respond to the growing crisis unfolding in our care homes. The government has now started collecting daily data, providing a count of all deaths where a positive test for Covid-19 has been confirmed, wherever that death has taken place. This differs from the weekly data ONS put out this week in one key area - we include all deaths where the registration mentions Covid-19, not necessarily a positive test."

He continues: "Using CQC data we have been able to show that between April 10 and April 17, CQC were notified of 1,968 deaths that were either confirmed or suspected by the provider to have involved Covid. This closely matches the 1,999 Covid related deaths that were registered in England between the same dates.

"CQC were also able to provide us with notifications received up to April 24 for a more up to date picture.

"In total, there were 2,906 deaths involving Covid-19 registered in English care homes up to April 17. Latest data from CQC shows 2,375 Covid-19 related deaths in care home settings from April 18 to April 24. When you look at these together, this gave the clearest indication yet of the scale of care home deaths."

Iain Bell writes that the ONS is working towards providing more insight on the impact that ethnicity has been having on Covid-19 deaths. The ONS is already investigating excess deaths not involving Covid-19, as well as looking at the impact someone's occupation, religion and even air pollution might be having on Covid-19 deaths.


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