Overall mortality for 2020 less than 2018

Let's talk death rates. Not a cheery subject, obviously, but important to understand because of the massive impact it has had on our lives and the economy over the last six months. Firstly, any death is tragic and it has been especially difficult for those who died in nursing homes over the last few months, as well as for their families. 

Vulnerable nursing home residents were not protected

The Irish state and health authorities failed miserably in 'protecting the vulnerable' and exacerbated the situation if anything. Nursing home residents were refused tests during the peak of infections. As a consequence, they could not be treated appropriately. The lack of testing and isolation of residents suffering from COVID-19 resulted in  the illness soon becoming rampant throughout nursing homes. Hospital patients were transferred to nursing homes without testing/isolating until it could be determined whether or not they had COVID-19 and were potentially contagious. Staff did not have enough PPE and so unwittingly spread the illness between those that were infected and those that weren't. Added to their plight was massive scaremongering and separation from their loved ones. Dr Marcus de Brun, who resigned from the medical council because of the mismanagement of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes, highlighted these and other issues in his article published last April.

Effective COVID-19 treatments not made available

Finally there are treatments like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) with a very high success rate particularly when given early and with zinc. Here is a video of medical doctors with first-hand experience using HCQ speaking about the very positive results they have had with this medication. One of these doctors has treated 350 patients, including elderly people and those with serious health issues. Not one of her patients died.. 

Initial rationale for lockdown flawed

Despite positive HCQ-treatment outcomes, GPs in Ireland have been advised by the HSE not to prescribe it for COVID-19. This is effectively depriving the most vulnerable of a treatment that could save their life or at the least prevent them from becoming seriously ill. We will also talk about other effective treatments that are not being brought to the public's attention.

Lockdown was implemented initially on the basis of projections contained in the Imperial College model (written by Neil Ferguson). That paper stated “we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US” if no measures were taken. This model has never been peer reviewed. It was obviously wildly inaccurate - according to Worldometer there were 41,902 deaths in the UK and 207,262 deaths in the US (as of 24th Sept). The fact that the model was completely wrong should have been very apparent to governments months ago. This video gives an in depth analysis that compares countries that locked down to Sweden which did not have the same lock-down measures. The data presented is very compelling and certainly appears to show that lock down measures did not lower deaths from COVID-19.

All cause mortality for first 5 months is nothing out of the ordinary

Several months into the pandemic, more data is available. Here are the mortality figures to the end of August showing the overall deaths for this year compared to previous years. The numbers were provided by the General Registers Office - they can be requested by emailing welfare@gro.ie

Deaths in Ireland need to be registered within 3 months[1] - so the numbers from January to May should be final (although we have noticed that figures can change somewhat even after three months).

The numbers speak for themselves - despite what the daily reporting on RTE would have us believe - death rates for the first five months of this year are just a little above average for the last 5 years. 

All cause mortality for Jan-May less than 2018

One note on the above chart - the population in Ireland has increased by 6.5% over the last 5 years. This has not been adjusted for in the chart and if this were taken into account - the death rate would be proportionally lower for 2020. Here are the figures from the GRO that this is based on:

Inflated and incorrect figure for COVID-19 deaths still quoted

The widely publicized figure for COVID-19 deaths in Ireland is 1,792 (as of 18 Sept). However the HIQUA report on mortality published on the 3rd of July shows that the figure at that time was overstated by 637 cases - a difference of 36%. Despite the fact that this was over two months ago - the overstated figure is still being quoted and indeed still features on the government COVID-19 hub which is the main destination for up-to-date information for most people in Ireland.

Tweet from Leo Vradakar saying we knew people died with COVID instead of it

Despite the fact that Leo Varadkar acknowledged this disparity on Twitter, the government has never revised the overstated figures or changed the way COVID-19 deaths are counted and reported.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) publishes the death figures (see latest here) but also breaks out the lab confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of course as the HIQA report shows and as Leo Vradakar has even admitted, this does not mean that all those people died from COVID-19. It only shows that they had tested positive for COVID-19 when they died, even though they may have had no symptoms and it may have had no impact on the outcome. Therefore, the true COVID-19 death rates are likely to be significantly lower. Even if using the higher figures, we can see from the following chart that COVID-19 deaths are relatively low compared to the overall deaths in Ireland this year. This is not what most people imagine to be the case given the response to the situation.

COVID-19 deaths in perspective

Chart showing COVID-19 deaths in relation to overall deaths

It is also worth noting that the mean age of death from COVID-19 in the HPSC report is 81 years - see image below. Life expectancy in Ireland is 82.8.

To add some further perspective, the following chart shows the estimated number of people that have died from cancer this year. According to the Irish Cancer Society, 1 person dies of cancer in Ireland every hour - this is the estimate used in the chart below. In comparison, COVID-19 death rates have been much lower.

COVID-19 deaths much lower than deaths from cancer in Ireland

Flatten the curve

When the lockdown was first introduced, we were told that the purpose was to ‘flatten the curve’. This made sense and would ensure that the health service wouldn’t be overwhelmed by an influx of patients. The Irish people complied. Official statistics published by the government now show that the Health Care System was at no point stretched. According to a recent Daily Operations Update by the HSE, confirmed COVID-19 cases in critical care beds have not exceeded 160 at any stage and numbers have been declining since the 10th of April. As of the 19 Sept, only 16 critical care beds in the entire country are occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

16 ICU patients testing positive for COVID-19 on 19 Sept

Source: HSE report on 19th Sept 

Highest number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 was 160 in April

Source: HSE report on 19th Sept 

PCR COVID-19 test and false positives

The original rationale of ‘flattening the curve’ has long since disappeared from the public narrative. But the restrictions were not lifted.  continually telling us about ‘cases’ and never highlighting the low death rates not to mention the negative impact of the restrictions themselves. 

Testing continues at significant rates without the HSE or the government ever addressing the issues with the testing methodology itself. 

PCR Test unsuitable for diagnosis

The test for COVID-19 is based on a technology called PCR which was discovered by Kary Mullis, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 for this discovery. However, he has stated that it should never be used for diagnosis due to the complexity of the process and because of a relatively high rate of false positive results if performed on asymptomatic individuals. (More on this in an article by Bose Ravenel M.D. and this detailed article by a journalist that interviewed Kary Mullis which goes into great detail on why it is unsuitable for diagnosis). 

High false positives for asymptomatic people

Because PCR tests detect the viral RNA, asymptomatic people may test positive including those that have an insignificant amount of the virus that would likely not be contagious. This article, which is based on a study in a Japanese journal, shows that the test kits used by the CDC in the US have a false positive rate of 30%. Dr. Michael Yeadon explains in this article that the rate of false positives for asymptomatic individuals is likely even higher at an incredible 90%! (Another article here).

PCR test used in Ireland criticized

The test used in Ireland is the Drosten test [2] - a test has been criticized because of its high Cq value. The Cq value specifies how many cycles of DNA replication are required to detect a real signal from a sample. The authors of this article say that Cq values of over 35 make test results even more meaningless. The Drosten test uses a Cq value of 45. Even the inventor of the technology Kary Mullis said “If you have to go more than 40 cycles to amplify a single-copy gene, there is something seriously wrong with your PCR.”

Impact of positive 'cases' for our country

These problems with false positives and unreliable tests mean that the recent spike of 357 cases on the 25th of Sept may have been between 35 and 250 cases in reality. Given that many people are now being tested due to contact tracing even though they experience/show no symptoms - it may be much closer to the lower number. Is this the reason that Dublin is now subject to increased draconian measures? 

As well as outright false positives, the COVID-19 test can also show a positive for those that have contracted the infection in the past and recovered. Indeed we don’t know whether some of the ‘cases’ are simply retests of the same patient that still show a positive result especially as hospital patients are tested weekly. So when we hear about cases every night on the news - how do we know how many of those people have any symptoms, mild symptoms or have a more serious illness? Why is this data not provided? However, we do know that despite the large number of ‘cases’, it is having a very low impact - 13 deaths in the month of August and just 16 patients in ICU as of the 19 September out of a population of 4.9 million. 

Outlook for the rest of the year 

It is important to point out that while the numbers of deaths we are seeing right now are about average for the last five years and the numbers in our hospitals are very low - this may not be the case by the end of this year. We can already see a trend with more reported hospitalizations for COVID-19 but as we will see below, this does not mean that the virus is the reason for those individuals being in hospital. 

It is important to  keep in mind that cancer screenings are beginning to resume while other operations and medical appointments are starting to get back to normal. As a result many more people are in hospital now. Many of them will have medical problems that are now much more serious, because they have not received the appropriate treatment on time. 

Given the extensive waiting lists in Irish hospitals before the lockdown, very long backlogs are likely. So with more people in hospital getting tested regularly, we will see more ‘cases’ each day. 

From what we have seen, the results from testing seem to be very unreliable. Remember, when we hear on the news of 16 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients - it does not necessarily mean that 16 people who were previously in good health turned up at their hospital suffering from COVID-19 symptoms. It may simply be a matter of people already in hospital for other reasons testing positive for COVID-19. Likewise, when deaths are reported, they are recorded as COVID-19 even if the virus was not the cause of death as was the case at the height of the epidemic.

Deaths that may be caused by continued restrictions

Deaths by suicide

In addition to the deaths that will be attributed to COVID-19 due to inaccurate tests, the measures being imposed on people will also contribute to more deaths. Deaths from suicide, for instance, are assumed to be up. A recent report from the HSE speaks about “the potential for emerging groups at risk of suicide and self-harm”. It concludes that “emerging evidence suggest the restrictions placed during the course of the pandemic (including quarantine/physical distancing/self-isolation, restrictions on movement, travel and social interaction etc) has placed a strain on the mental health and wellbeing of the population as a whole, and has had significant impact on particular population groups”. 

Depression and mental health problems

Depression is increasing, especially amongst elderly people who are still suffering hugely from isolation and loneliness. This study shows that more than one-in-four (27.7%) people screened positive for generalized anxiety disorder or depres-sion during the first week of the strictest COVID-19 lockdown measures in Ireland. It also found that anxiety specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic was highest amongst citizens aged 65 years and older.

Flu vaccine increases risk of COVID-19

As winter approaches, we can see an increased push for people to get the flu vaccine. There is even a drive through flu vaccine clinic in Cork and a HSE ad campaign aimed at children. The Minister for Health has announced a roll out of the flu vaccine for children between 2 and 9 years of age. This is all going ahead even though a study by the US military showed that the flu vaccine increases the risk of contracting coronavirus by 36%. While this study predates SARS CoV2, it may have an implication for COVID-19 as it is a coronavirus also.

Deaths from missed medical treatments

Added to this will be deaths from other illnesses that were not treated on time - such as certain cancer deaths. All these factors - exacerbated by the continuing fearmongering and restrictions may well contribute to higher death rates during the coming winter.

In conclusion, the public in Ireland has been led to believe that COVID-19 has caused untold levels of deaths. This was and continues to be reinforced through daily reports on deaths and new cases and the unprecedented restrictions that are having such a devastating effect on our economy and our lives. The data does not support this, and it is clear that the draconian restrictions are out of all proportion with the reality of the situation. 

Correction (1/10/20): a reader has pointed out that there was a mismatch between 2020 figures from GRO and the chart for overall mortality. The April figure in the chart was too low by 100 due to a typo. We apologise for this error and have updated the chart showing overall deaths for 2020 and the chart showing COVID-19 deaths versus overall deaths. This change brings the total number for 2020 just above average. (Note that the chart is not adjusted for population growth so if this was the case it may still be below average)

More resources:

This twitter thread has an excellent analysis of the latest mortality figures from the GRO: https://twitter.com/GrahamNeary/status/1305474304797278208

In depth analysis by Ivor Cummins on figures for deaths and cases: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UvFhIFzaac&t=662s 


[1] According to the GRO “While all deaths are required to be registered within 3 months, there is no statutory limitation as to when a death may be registered.”

[2] FOI request (FOI12_1_544) to UCD Response stated: “The UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) have confirmed that the current assay being used to detect corona virus is the one recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as published in the attached article.” The article in question was about the Drosten test. This Bloomberg article says that Drosten shared the test with the WHO which published it and the test was soon deployed around the world.

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