Scotland’s covid-19 death rate stays at HALF UK level as value of mass testing is challenged

Throughout April, the FT has been exposing the stark truth about covid deaths in the UK and, in particular in England, suggesting with tragic confidence, a figure well in excess of 40 000 more than a week ago:

With all recorded Scottish covid deaths at 2 272, 5 days later, this suggests a death rate around twice that per capita in the UK.

While the reasons will be complex and many, Scotland’s more resilient NHS with higher staffing, fewer prior hospital infections, such as norovirus, due to inhouse cleaning, better PPE provision, 50 assessment centres diverting cases away from GP surgeries, clearer more open government guidance, more disciplined distancing in urban areas than in English cities and no care homes failing inspections, unlike large numbers in England failing on infection control, must surely be playing a part.*

Take into account Scotland’s pre-existing significantly higher mortality rate and the figures are even more impressive.

With chilling predictability the Herald has pounced on rumours that the Johnson regime may have come closer to hitting their testing target after sending in the army [thus ‘surge’ as in Iraq?], but still not hitting it, as evidence the Scottish Government has not helped in that surge.

Way down the page we see a wee reminder that the UK and Scottish statistics are probably not comparable.

Then we see the FM has warned that testing is not a panacea and can be unreliable.

In Germany it is emerging that mass testing may have led to over-confidence and too-quick lock-down reductions, triggering a second wave.

  • All of these claims are evidence-based. Search the blog for them or if in difficulty ask me.

2 thoughts on “Scotland’s covid-19 death rate stays at HALF UK level as value of mass testing is challenged”

  1. ABOUT
    Richard Murphy on tax, accounting and political economy
    Something has gone very wrong in the NHS in England
    Posted on May 1 2020

    David Spiegelhalter had an article in the Guardian yesterday in which he claimed we should not compare international variation in death rates from coronavirus as yet, and would not be able to do so for some time.

    I have to disagree with him. I have noted the EuroMomo website that says this of itself:

    EuroMOMO is a European mortality monitoring activity, aiming to detect and measure excess deaths related to seasonal influenza, pandemics and other public health threats.

    Official national mortality statistics are provided weekly from the 24 European countries in the EuroMOMO collaborative network, supported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
    They do provide comparisons: that is their job. They do so by normalising the data using Z scores (explained here) so that comparison is possible.

    This is their most recent comparison for the nations of the UK:

    Those comparisons are real, and telling. England is doing much worse than the rest of the UK.

    And let me add one other thing. No other country has a profile like that of England. This is France:

    And this is Italy:

    I think comparisons can be made, and something is very wrong indeed in what has happened in the NHS in England, alone.

    There has to be political accountability for this. And to say comparisons cannot be made now is to seek to support the avoidance of responsibility on the part of those who have failed.

    David Spiegelhalter is wrong. We should be talking about differences, now.

    15 Responses
    Andy Coombes says:
    May 1 2020 at 8:51 am
    Thanks for that. Succinct.

    Pilgrim Slight Return says:
    May 1 2020 at 8:59 am
    Salient – in every possible way.

    CathyS says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:08 am
    Very much agree, but can you clarify do all countries use similar data sources , i.e. generated by ONS or equivalent?

    Richard Murphy says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:12 am
    This is excess deaths data

    CathyS says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:43 am
    I understand, but I wanted to know whether the data is generated using similar methods and sources across countries.

    Richard Murphy says:
    May 1 2020 at 10:23 am
    I suspect not entirely

    But I also suspect it is using the best data that there is – and that is excess deaths – i.e. whatever the stated cause, which is the most value free information that we have

    Vinnie says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:16 am
    Sorry Richard!

    Vinnie again!!

    A quick thought, that I am not expecting you to have the answer to! (And unrelated to the subject of the thread. Sorry!)

    I watched Novara Media’s interview with George Monbiot last night.

    In it they mentioned that during lockdown, the UK’s co2 emissions have dropped by 5%.

    With large chunks of the economy shut down, the co2 emissions have only dropped by 5%!!!!!!

    What’s creating the rest of it!!!!

    If shutting down the economy only reduces it by 5%, what do we have to do to reduce co2 to sustainable levels????!!!!!

    Richard Murphy says:
    May 1 2020 at 10:27 am
    I’m not an environmentalist

    I’m a finance gut with green leanings

    Others need to answer that

    John Lewis says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:38 am
    Is it the NHS or is it the Government’s strategy of
    a) Delaying the ‘lockdown’ for 3/4 weeks.
    b) Minimal testing & no tracing & isolation of those infected.
    c) Unrestrained & untested access to the UK, particularly via our airports.
    d) ‘Managing’ the pandemic among those infected in care homes by not accepting them into hospital and
    e) Discouraging the public, who are unwell, from phoning either their GP or 111, until their symptoms become distressing.
    The result of the above is almost certainly more far infections than officially disclosed, more infections (& deaths) in the high risk environment of care homes, more (untested) deaths in the community and more severe patients in hospitals.

    Peter May says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:42 am
    England is the second most densely populated European country after Malta and I think the Netherlands and Belgium are next.
    Malta has seen hardly any change (but is an isolated island) whereas the Netherlands and Belgium do look a bit more like England – although certainly not as bad.
    Maybe population density is relevant, but I’m sure ten years of austerity and wanton privatisation and gratuitious reorganisation in England’s NHS account for the rest.

    Richard Murphy says:
    May 1 2020 at 10:25 am
    I don’t really get the density issue

    It may help transmission, a little

    But that much? I very, very much doubt it

    I stress, this is only instinct though

    London has higher rates but it is also known BAME populations are badly impacted for reasons not properly understood. I would accept that as a small contribution. But still not enough, by a long way

    Philip Espin says:
    May 1 2020 at 9:58 am
    Hi Richard. It certainly looks as if England is doing badly but if you drill down on the ONS website you find London is doing particularly badly, much worse than the rest of England. Detailed investigation is required but there is already mounting evidence that urban areas are doing worse than rural and poor communities worse still. It looks on the face of it that the urban English way of life has made our population more susceptible than others. But our health authorities knew all this before the epidemic. The shocking dereliction in strategic health epidemic planning is the underlying cause and that’s down to HMG.

    Richard Murphy says:
    May 1 2020 at 10:30 am
    I just got to this and mentioned that I accept this as a factor as I also do the high BAME population of some of our contributions, who seem inexplicably vulnerable (and sadly so).

    But as you say, much of this was known

    Matt B says:
    May 1 2020 at 10:06 am
    every countries reported figures for corona deaths should be considered suspect due to reporting methods and patchy testing for the presence of the corona virus,

    hence the only way of tracking corona deaths is through excess deaths, i.e. current deaths compared to previous years,

    one also has to bear in mind that with most populations in quarantine normal accidental deaths like road fatalities and industrial accidents are probably lower than the norm at the moment,

    it does look like the UK is now the worst in Europe and the USA is global #1 looking likely to exceed their deaths from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918,

    neither the UK or the USA seem anywhere near the 70% already infected figure to achieve some form of herd immunity so we should expect the body count to keep rising,

    currently the UK & USA appear to be literally dying to get back to work,

    contrast this with the figures for New Zealand & Australia who haven’t been dying and are getting back to work.

    nothing has gone wrong in the NHS, what the figures show is that only deaths in hospitals are being recorded not deaths at home or deaths in nursing homes,
    the high excess deaths figure is because the UK locked down far to late and still hasn’t fully closed it’s borders.

    the excess deaths would be even worse if a sizeable group of people hadn’t already voluntarily socially distanced & self isolated before the official lockdown was announced.

    the Imperial College modelling that suggested this will carry on till probably early 2022 still seems credible,

    we could lift some or all lockdown restrictions to accelerate the carnage and get it over and done with but there’s strong indications that even if everything was opened up many of the public would still stay home for quite some time,

    a blog I follow commissioned a survey of attitudes and intentions, it’s US based but the findings seem plausable and could easily be translated to the UK,

    I’m finding independent analysis much more convincing than official narratives at the moment.

    Richard Murphy says:
    May 1 2020 at 10:21 am
    I agree with your last comment

    This data is based on excess deaths and so is, I think, the most likely to be reliable

    Not right, I agree

    But the most likely to be reliable


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