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Experts today called for the scrapping of the daily publication of Covid deaths to be brought forward because they are out of whack with the true number of people dying from the virus. 

Since March 2020, the Government has released a daily fatality toll based on deaths within 28 days of a positive test to track the pandemic. 

Critics have long complained it is a flawed dataset because it includes everyone who died in the weeks after they caught Covid, regardless of their cause of death — meaning theoretically even car crash victims can be included. 

Professor Robert Dingwall, a former Government Covid adviser, said the value of the daily deaths had always been ‘speed rather than accuracy’ but he argued their need was ‘diminishing rapidly’ because Omicron is causing a rise in coincidental Covid deaths.

Going by the daily figure reported by the Government, there were 1,663 Covid fatalities registered in England and Wales during the week ending January 28, with more than 400 on some individual days. 

But separate official data from the Office for National Statistics shows Covid was actually the underlying cause in just 986 deaths in the same week — 40 per cent lower than the daily reported figure.

The ONS found that overall there were 1,385 fatalities in which Covid was mentioned on the death certificate, even if it wasn’t the reason for their death, which is still lower than the official toll presented to the public daily.  

Professor Dingwall, a sociologist at Nottingham Trent University, told MailOnline ministers should look to scrap daily Covid statistics from the end of the month — when the remaining Covid laws are due to be abandoned. 

He said: ‘The value of data published daily on the dashboard is diminishing rapidly. If there is going to be a package at the end of the month for removing restrictions, that may be an appropriate point to start looking at [removing daily stats from] the dashboard.

‘[Their use] has become increasingly questionable, and the only merit it has had throughout has been the speed at which info appears rather than the accuracy of the data. The daily death data has always had a fairly loose relationship with underlying mortality rates — but that has changed significantly with Omicron.’

Some scientists have held up fluctuations in the daily death numbers as a reason not to open the country up, even though sharp and anomalous spikes are normally simply due to reporting delays.

Professor Dingwall added: ‘Certainly in recent weeks there have been examples of advocates of greater restrictions and control misusing the daily statistics.’ 

Covid deaths for England and Wales by week and date reported. The above figures show the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test (blue) are now 40 per cent higher than the number of deaths actually triggered by Covid (green bar). The number of Covid deaths where the virus is mentioned on the death certificate (red) is also shown

Covid deaths for England and Wales by week and date reported. The above figures show the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test (blue) are now 40 per cent higher than the number of deaths actually triggered by Covid (green bar). The number of Covid deaths where the virus is mentioned on the death certificate (red) is also shown

Covid deaths for England and Wales by week and date reported. The above figures show the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test (blue) are now 40 per cent higher than the number of deaths actually triggered by Covid (green bar). The number of Covid deaths where the virus is mentioned on the death certificate (red) is also shown

Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test (blue) and by mentions on death certificates (red) initially tracked each other closely in England. But in recent weeks the two have now diverged significantly. The data is by date of occurrence

Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test (blue) and by mentions on death certificates (red) initially tracked each other closely in England. But in recent weeks the two have now diverged significantly. The data is by date of occurrence

Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test (blue) and by mentions on death certificates (red) initially tracked each other closely in England. But in recent weeks the two have now diverged significantly. The data is by date of occurrence

The graph shows that proportion of Covid fatalities in England where the virus was not the underlying cause of death. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows this figure rose to 28.8 per cent on January 28

The graph shows that proportion of Covid fatalities in England where the virus was not the underlying cause of death. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows this figure rose to 28.8 per cent on January 28

The graph shows that proportion of Covid fatalities in England where the virus was not the underlying cause of death. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows this figure rose to 28.8 per cent on January 28 

Senior Whitehall sources briefed journalists last month that Boris Johnson plans to scrap the daily publication of all Covid statistics by April, including cases and hospitalisations. 

The daily deaths are based on fatalities from the virus registered by hospitals and public health protection teams within the last 24 hours. 

It was needed for the past two years of the pandemic because it can take days or even weeks to sift through death certificates and determine the cause and exact date of death.

Boris Johnson declares that ALL Covid rules are set to be scrapped from the end of THIS MONTH 

Boris Johnson today declared that all coronavirus restrictions are set to be axed from the end of this month.

The PM made the dramatic announcement on ending the rules – including the legal requirement for those who test positive to self-isolate – at the start of PMQs in the Commons.

Mr Johnson said he would lay out the full strategy after the half-term recess on February 21, but said as long as ‘encouraging’ trends continue restrictions can go in England four weeks earlier than previously proposed.

The step was greeted with roars in the chamber, with many Tories having been pushing for the government to draw a line under the pandemic.

The country has been subject to virtually unprecedented peacetime restrictions since early 2020. However, it is far from clear that Scotland and Wales will follow suit – as the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Labour’s Mark Drakeford have been far more cautious.

Travel rules could also stay in place on people coming to the UK.

The news could give Mr Johnson a much-needed boost as he battles to cling on amid damaging Partygate allegations.

Covid cases have been easing after the Omicron surge and deaths have remained far below the fears of many experts.

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Until recently, with the arrival of Omicron, the ONS’ dataset was closely aligned with the daily number.   

But the new variant has caused a significant divergence between the two figures.

The same pattern is shown in hospitalisations, where latest data suggests less than half of Covid patients were actually being treated for the virus.

NHS England data showed of 11,967 Covid patients on wards just 5,719 — or 47 per cent — were actually being primarily treated for the virus.

Omicron is causing less severe disease than previous variants because of much higher immunity levels in the population, and the fact that it is milder despite being more infectious. 

Professor Dingwall said the daily Covid statistics should be replaced by weekly statistics from the ONS.

He said: ‘ONS data is more reliable but there are delays in publishing them.

‘There’s now a good case for reverting to simply publishing ONS material on weekly basis, and dropping the daily element of the dashboard.

‘How long you keep going with the ONS’ weekly data is another matter, and I think there is some value in keeping that going for another few months.’

Another scientist today called for the Covid dashboard to be scrapped, although they did not wish to see this happen before Easter. 

Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at Imperial College London, told MailOnline: ‘Scrapping the dashboard means in effect that the pandemic is over, and such an announcement has to be timed carefully.

‘If things continue to move in the right direction, April may be a reasonable date to do this.’

Government dashboard data shows Covid deaths in England — by date registered — peaked on January 15 when 239 were being recorded every day on average.

This has now dropped to 232 a day on February 5, the latest available.

On the other hand ONS data — also by date registered — showed Covid deaths peaked on January 20 when 203 were being recorded every day on average.

It is currently tracking at about 189 deaths a day on January 28, the latest available.

At this point the Government was registering 235 deaths a day on average, or 46 fewer deaths per day than were shown in daily statistics.

Figures for Covid deaths where the virus was the underlying cause are only available by week, but they reflect the same pattern.

But they show just 75 per cent of Covid deaths are now actually with the virus as the underlying cause, down from 85 per cent at the start of the month.

Professor Lawrence Young, an expert in viruses at Warwick Medical School, warned daily figures were now becoming ‘increasingly unreliable’ because of under or over-reporting.

He said the current cases numbers he found ‘hard to believe’, with other official surveys still pointing towards around one in 20 people in England having the virus.

But Professor Young added he was concerned about the accuracy of the daily hospitalisations and deaths numbers because less and less were actually directly triggered by the virus. 

Several scientists have previously called for the daily figures to be scrapped, warning they were becoming ‘misleading’ and fuelling an ‘unhealthy addiction’ to the numbers. 

They include Professor Yoon Loke, a medical expert at Norwich Medical School, who previously said it was time to abandon the daily Covid updates because the data was becoming ‘incredibly problematic’.

He told MailOnline: ‘We are in a very different position now compared to two years ago, or even 12 months ago, where we were facing the need to be extremely vigilant to the exponentially rising tide of life-threatening illness. The nature of the beast (has now) changed very substantially.’ 

It comes after Mr Johnson today declared that all coronavirus restrictions are set to be axed from the end of this month.

The PM made the dramatic announcement on ending the rules — including the legal requirement for those who test positive to self-isolate — at the start of PMQs in the Commons.

Mr Johnson said he would lay out the full strategy after the half-term recess on February 21, but said as long as ‘encouraging’ trends continue restrictions can go in England four weeks earlier than previously proposed.

The step was greeted with roars in the chamber, with many Tories having been pushing for the government to draw a line under the pandemic.

The country has been subject to virtually unprecedented peacetime restrictions since early 2020. However, it is far from clear that Scotland and Wales will follow suit – as the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Labour’s Mark Drakeford have been far more cautious. Travel rules could also stay in place on people coming to the UK.

The news could give Mr Johnson a much-needed boost as he battles to cling on amid damaging Partygate allegations.

Covid cases have been easing after the Omicron surge and deaths have remained far below the fears of many experts.

‘Mr Speaker I can tell the house today, that it is my intention to return on the first day after the half term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid,’ Mr Johnson told MPs.

‘Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions, including the legal requirement to self isolate if you test positive, a full month early.’

Covid regulations are currently due to expire on March 24.

Source: Daily Mail

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