False: In the U.K., only 17,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the last two years.

By: Pallavi Sethi
February 2 2022

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False: In the U.K., only 17,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the last two years.


The Verdict False

COVID-19 has killed approximately 150,000 people in the U.K.

Claim ID 1b5a50a8

In a recently published blog post, the Expose downplays the mortality of COVID-19. According to the post, the reported death toll of 150,000 is an "outright lie," and "just 17,371 people have died of COVID-19 over the past two years." GB News presenter Dan Wootton echoed these claims and asked the media to look at the "number of people who died of Covid, not with Covid." Wootton compared the number of COVID deaths to the people who die in a "normal winter flu season." This is false and misrepresents the severity of COVID-19. In the U.K., approximately 150k people have died of COVID-19. In response to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released COVID-19 mortality data of people who died of COVID-19 "alone" — that is, those who had "COVID-19" listed as the sole cause of death on their death certificate. This figure stood at 17,371. However, this figure does not represent the actual death toll from COVID-19. This is because it excludes people with underlying conditions who would have otherwise survived, and it excludes people who have more than one cause of death on their death certificate, which is a common practice. It is false to suggest that these groups of people did not die from COVID-19. First, millions of people in the U.K. suffer from conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. If properly managed, people with conditions like these can live reasonably long and healthy lives. According to The New Statesman, intensive care reports showed that 89.5 percent of people admitted to the ICU for COVID-19 symptoms since May 2021 could live without any assistance. Ten percent required some kind of assistance, while only 0.4 percent needed total aid. It is not reasonable to conclude that these people would die soon anyway and that COVID-19 merely hastened the inevitable. Secondly, the 17k figure excludes people who died of COVID-19 but have other causes on their death certificate. Rachel Schraer, a senior reporter at the BBC, wrote a Twitter thread explaining how this works. Suppose a person catches COVID and "dies of acute respiratory distress syndrome," which COVID caused - in that case, the person is dying of COVID, even though "both conditions would appear on the death certificate." Schraer points out that it is very common to record multiple causes of death on a death certificate. For example, Schraer writes, if someone were stabbed to death, "myocardial infarction" might be one of the causes of death on the death certificate, but that doesn't mean that "getting stabbed" wasn't the cause of death. Some argue that measuring the number of COVID-19 deaths by including everyone who died within 28 days of a positive test result is an inflated count since it would consist of people who tested positive but died of something unrelated, like a car accident. However, if that were true, then the number of death certificates with COVID-19 listed as a cause would be lower, not higher. So while 153,862 people died within 28 days of a positive test, including people that died of unrelated causes, there are 175,256 death certificates that list COVID-19 as one of the causes of death. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.K. suffered the largest rise in excess deaths since World War Two. "Excess deaths" is a measurement of how many people died, regardless of cause, above the average number of deaths for a given period. There have been 151k excess deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

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