Public Health England currently counts the deaths of all people who have tested positive for Covid-19 among the coronavirus fatality total whether their death was related to the disease or not, an error which was noted in July, prompting the suspension of the daily death toll and an “urgent review” of protocol.
In other words, as many as 4,170 fatalities could be wiped off England’s current Covid-19 death toll of 41,686.
According to reports in UKmedia, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock will bring all coronavirus fatality reporting in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland public health models, wherein a death is marked as Covid-19-related only if it occurs within 28 days of a positive test.
“At the moment, the figures are just confusing,” said Professor Carl Heneghan from the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University.
“All it does is muddy the water. While deaths are falling in Scotland, PHE data suggests matters are worse in England.”
If the system is not updated, the total of roughly 265,000 confirmed cases in England would all eventually be counted as Covid-19 fatalities regardless of the actual cause of death.
A second weekly measure which records fatalities within 60 days of positive coronavirus test results will also be introduced, with an official announcement expected later this week.
The news will add some much-needed clarity and uniformity to the UK’s mixed response to the pandemic, amid localized lockdowns, confusing government guidelines, and scattershot travel and quarantine restrictions.