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British government orders review of virus death figures

London: Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock has ordered a review into how deaths from coronavirus are reported in England after academics said the daily figures may be unreliable and include people who have died of other causes, an official said.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.Credit:AP

The way Public Health England, a government agency responsible for managing infectious disease outbreaks, calculates the figures in England means they might look worse than in other parts of the United Kingdom, according to two academics.

Yoon Loke, from the University of East Anglia, and Carl Heneghan, from the University of Oxford, said Public Health England cross-checks the latest notifications of deaths against a database of positive test results – so anyone who has tested positive can be recorded as dying from the virus.

In a blog titled “Why no-one can recover from COVID-19 in England”, the academics said that patients who tested positive for COVID, but were successfully treated, would still be counted as dying from the virus if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.

Britain’s death toll of more than 45,000 from confirmed cases of COVID-19 is Europe’s highest.

The Department for Health and Social Care told the London Telegraph: “The Health Secretary has asked PHE to conduct an urgent review into the reporting of deaths statistics, aimed at providing greater clarity on the number of fatalities related to Covid-19 as we move past the peak of the virus.”


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