Lies, Damned Lies and WHO Statistics

World Health Organisation (WHO) policy is misleading – why count every death as a COVID death just because it might be a cofactor, but without testing?

The government has fucked up badly. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, or they have actually lost it. They want to test 500,000 foreign workers, but can only do 8,000 tests a day, so obviously they will keep getting positive but symptomless results for ages – which then leaves them fucked if they want to say we are clear of COVID-19 here. Any country that tests is going to find a bunch of positives, so either test all in one shot or forget about it. 

The unfortunate non-COVID related death of the father of a friend of mine highlighted the fact that the WHO’s own guidelines state that all deaths should be counted as COVID-19 deaths, so long as they might have been related – irrespective of testing for the virus. 

Although the intention may be to avoid underestimating death numbers in countries without the resources or willpower to test people for SARS-CoV-2, the very clear side effect is that statistics in many countries will be inflated by moving people from other causes of death into the COVID-19 category. See, for instance, differences in Singapore’s statistics between not testing at all, and delayed testing. Or, differences in weekend deaths versus the rest of the week in England and Wales. It should be obvious from looking at either of these cases that all COVID-19 statistics should be taken with a very large pinch of salt… But if not, let’s do some simple math:

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been in the general population since at least December 2019.  But to be conservative, we’ll only count deaths recorded in 2020 from February to April.  We’ll also ignore the hugely manipulative classification of deaths by the WHO’s method.  Let us now assume that deaths don’t taper off over time as either we get herd immunity, a vaccine or suitable treatments are found, or best case scenario, all the ‘at risk’ people take steps to get out of the at risk category.  Finally we can ignore the fact that increased COVID-19 deaths means a dramatic decrease in deaths from other causes thanks to the WHO’s cause-of-death policy.

250,000 deaths every three months for a year is barely more than 0.01% of the world’s population.  That figure is approximately the same number that are reported as dying from suicide annually, and do you think the economic devastation caused by lockdown won’t make that number increase? It’s a tiny fraction of the 7,500,000 people who die from high blood pressure every year (something that is entirely preventable).  If we want to make crazy comparisons, your risk of choking to death is apparently three times higher than the annualised risk of COVID-19 death.

The other big fact that never gets mentioned is that since the vast majority of people who die are over 70 and have a comorbidity, all we are really doing is possibly bringing the date of death forward by a few months or years, and replacing the cause of death from a ‘normal’ one to a media-hyped cause.  For every 1000 people who die from COVID-19 there will be nearly 1000 fewer deaths from high blood pressure, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and other serious chronic illnesses. 

To help visualise this point, the number of deaths in England and Wales in the first three months of 2020 was 149,793.  Compare this to 143,283 in 2019 and 164,560 in 2018. 2017 was 153538, 2016 stood at 141,835. How far back do you want me to go?  The ONS lists data back to 2006 on its website – and the numbers barely change each year. So of course COVID-19 is worth being concerned about, but by our reaction to this, so too is high blood pressure, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. We should “stay alert” just as readily for these chronic illnesses as COVID-19.