Experts have claimed that the COVID-19 fatality rate in the U.K. could be close to zero percent. Based on data they analyzed, most Britons who died of the disease would have passed away from natural causes nevertheless. Their claim followed official figures bolstering the assertion that the Wuhan coronavirus has been kept at bay.
A batch of data released by the British government showed that COVID-19 is no longer the leading cause of death in England and Wales. Figures released by the U.K. Office for National Statistics (ONS) for March 2021 showed that ischemic heart diseases, alongside dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, equally took the top spot as the leading causes of death in England. ONS figures for Wales showed the same outcome – with heart diseases being slightly ahead of the neurological ailments, and COVID-19 trailing the two.
According to the U.K. Department for Health and Social Care, the country sees an average of 24 COVID-19 deaths per day. Fatalities that occur within 28 days of a positive Wuhan coronavirus test stemming from any cause – such as cancer, a heart attack or a car accident – are counted in the DHSC’s daily death count.
University of Buckingham professor Karol Sikora said the government’s average number of COVID-19 daily deaths had the potential to be “significantly” lower than the current number. Official data appeared to back up his argument, showing that about 25 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 are people who died while infected instead of as a result of the virus.
Other scientists have remarked that despite some patients not registering COVID-19 as an underlying cause of death, the pathogen probably had a significantly negative impact on their last days. Open University applied statistics emeritus professor Kevin McConway remarked that “a significant number” of COVID-19 deaths were not mainly caused by the virus.
The retired professor remarked: “For these deaths involving [the coronavirus] – but not having [COVID-19] as the underlying cause – the virus could have had a substantial effect on the patient. [It may have] made their last days much more uncomfortable, or even shortened their life by a substantial amount.”
Aside from coronavirus-related deaths, the number of new infections in the U.K. is also falling. Scientists at King’s College London said less than 900 people are developing COVID-19 every day. The team based this finding on data they obtained from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, which more than 1 million Britons downloaded and used.
The scientists estimated that during the week of April 11 to 17, only 870 people reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms every day through the app. This number was the lowest the app ever recorded, even landing below estimates for August 2020 when there were little to no restrictions.
Epidemiology professor Tim Spector said the promising figures “encouraged” him. The head of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app continued that the drop in daily infections meant that so-called variants of concern had not gained a foothold in the country. He remarked: “I am encouraged to see no impact from the South African [B1351] variant in the areas of Southwark and Lambeth, where some expected it to [go] out of control.”
Spector attributed the diminishing infections to the U.K.’s vaccination program, social distancing measures and the warmer weather permitting people to spend more time outside their houses. He explained: “This is likely due to the vaccination program, the continuation of social distancing measures and the improving weather – making it harder now for any new variant to take hold.”
The findings put more pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ease restrictions. However, the British leader has insisted on sticking to his lockdown plan despite the low fatality rate and less than 2,000 hospitalizations from COVID-19. Johnson reiterated his reliance on “data, not dates” when it comes to eventual loosening of guidelines. (Related: Senior UK MP warns British public may “rise up” if lockdown exit plan isn’t detailed.)
According to a February 2021 BBC report, Johnson agreed with a data-led approach for easing lockdown restrictions. “I do think that’s absolutely right,” he answered. The prime minister added that any relaxation of current restrictions would be “based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach.” Johnson further elaborated that such loosening of measures would be done in “stages.”
The prime minister also said that time that reopening the hospitality sector was one of the last items on the list. Johnson said: “You have to remember from last year that we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things that we did. [This is because] there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality.”
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