Will the government ever let the crisis end?

Excess deaths have been below average for five weeks now. So why are we facing new restrictions?

Simon Marcus


Surges, quarantines, record global cases, new lockdowns and compulsory face masks. If you have been scared witless by all this in recent weeks you may be interested in one small fact. The number of excess deaths in England and Wales in July so far is less than the same period last year.

You read that right. For the past five consecutive weeks, deaths have been below the five-year average. In fact, from around mid-May 2020, the number of weekly death registrations has been pretty much the same as last year. That includes the weeks when thousands were protesting and beaches were packed and, of course, no one was wearing face masks.

This matters. Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, has acknowledged that excess deaths are the key figure in assessing the toll of the pandemic – and for good reason. While there is considerable controversy over the counting of Covid-associated deaths due to testing, diagnosis, verification and certification of death, the total-death data doesn’t lie. The Health Foundation explains why:

‘Excess deaths is a better measure than Covid-19 deaths of the pandemic’s total mortality. It measures the additional deaths in a given time period compared to the number usually expected, and does not depend on how Covid-19 deaths are recorded.’

According to the ONS, there have been roughly 58,000 more deaths than the five-year average over the period since the lockdown began on 23 March. This figure sounds large. But it is far lower than many epidemiologists predicted.

Furthermore, this figure is likely to not be comprised entirely of Covid victims. First, some of the increase will be entirely random, and could be related to anything from homelessness to drug abuse.

Secondly, some of the increase in deaths could be a reflection of underlying trends. From 2012, the falling annual number of registered deaths in England and Wales began to level out and there are signs we may be seeing a longer-term increase in mortality rates.

For example, around 30,000 more people died in 2015 than in 2014 in England and Wales than would have been expected if mortality trends from a decade earlier had continued. Also, the proportion of over-65s in the population is around 18 per cent today. It is projected to rise to 25 per cent by 2050. So a small part of the increase in deaths in 2020 may be the start of a sad but inevitable upward trend in annual deaths.

Thirdly, a significant number of deaths may be due to critically ill, non-Covid, patients avoiding hospitals and GP surgeries – either out of a sense of duty to avoid burdening the NHS or from fear of catching Covid. One leading cancer specialist thinks that up to 50,000 cancer patients might die as a result of the lockdown. Data suggest that urgent referrals for cancer tests and diagnosis have fallen by up to 76 per cent.

Many suffering from severe heart-attack symptoms may have been sacrificed, too. Data from Public Health England shows that severe cardiac-related visits halved from around 300 per day in early March to around 150 per day by the end of March.

The British Medical Journal notes the ‘striking reductions’ in those seeking treatment for stroke symptoms which could leave many severely disabled or dead. And figures from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine show that A&E attendances were down 25 per cent in the week after the lockdown began, with some departments around the UK experiencing more than a 50 per cent drop in attendance. Similar trends are being observed across the developed world.

At present, around 46,000 out of the 58,000 excess deaths are said to be associated with Covid. But the real Covid death toll could be far lower. Indeed, this would be no surprise. We already know that some Covid death certifications may have been inaccurate.

Many of the excess deaths will have been caused by the lockdown, rather than Covid itself. At the Science and Technology Select Committee in early July, chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance confirmed that the government knew about the potential damage that lockdown would cause. He explained that in April, government officials estimated that up to 25,000 could die from delays to treatments in the first six months, and another 185,000 following that.

In fact, the government estimated that the lockdown itself could claim up to 200,000 lives because of the disruption to healthcare and the recession – both of which are now starting to cause real pain. It also warned of 500 more suicides in the first wave – potentially up to 12,000 per year in a recession. Like all government estimates based on modelling, the projected figure should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it is significant that even the government acknowledges the lockdown will cause needless deaths.

We will never know the real numbers who have died from Covid-19. But we do know that despite an ageing population, an annual death rate showing signs of a new up-trend and a lot of collateral damage from lockdown, fewer people are dying now than at the same time last year. Stack this next to the historically unprecedented devastation of our economy, mass unemployment, an off-the-scale mental-health crisis, untold wrecked lives, a social fabric in tatters and now an unprecedented attack on our personal liberty with compulsory face masks, and something stinks.

We live in an era of manias and moral panics and it seems that government and experts are the worst affected. It is inexplicable how the basic maths of the situation eludes those who rule us. Nor do they have the excuse that there was no alternative – Sweden made that clear from the start.

But the government is in too deep now. How can our leaders admit they may have made the biggest mistake of any government in peacetime? It is disturbing, too, that the mainstream news has simply ignored the fact that Covid has all but gone in the UK. Of course, it may return and some restrictions may be justified in that event. But most terrifying of all is that the government is issuing new restrictions, like compulsory face masks, just as the excess death rate goes negative. If the government can force masks on us when Covid has nearly disappeared, will we ever be able take them off?

Simon Marcus is a writer, political consultant and former government adviser.

Picture by: Getty.

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Stephen Kennedy

30th July 2020 at 8:06 pm

If you look at mortality – all causes (total number of deaths) in the US. What you see is this, an ordinary Winter with the usual number of excess deaths from respiratory illness. A week or two after the lockdowns begin, the death rate goes straight up, in a fashion that looks entirely artificial. You could claim that right after the lockdowns the virus starting spreading like crazy, which would be a strange argument. Or, you could conclude that the lockdowns themselves … locking frail elderly people inside without their families, which terrorizing them, killed large numbers of the most vulnerable. Deaths are dropping well below normal in the US as well. In fact, they are heading far below the normal Summer range. The answer is simple, all the deaths of people who were likely to die this year were brought forward into a few weeks after the lockdowns. This is not a tragedy on the level that an epidemic among the young would be, but it’s not very nice to lock up some old, sick person, and let them die alone. Of course, many younger people will die in the months ahead because of the economic havoc of the lockdowns. The effect of this is not even very visible yet. In my own State of NH it’s estimated that 45% of renters are in danger of eviction, once the moratorium ends. What will happen when millions are out on the streets homeless, I don’t know, but I suspect concern about ‘masks’ is liable to vanish in massive riots … that will make BLM look like a picnic.

(the data lags quite a bit, at least

Roger Butterworth

30th July 2020 at 7:31 am

Unless people express their disgust at this appalling behavior by the government we can expect a lockdown every 12 months as each seasonal flu creates a panic.

James Black

30th July 2020 at 5:14 am

The tyrannical boots of state stamping on the human face will us still wearing masks in 5 years time. Pandemics will never end. Covid has been called Pandemic One. Rushed vaccine gave 100% of test group severe chills and fever. Gates said it will take more than one dose. Cue new vaccines every year, mandatory with digital tattoo under your skin containing medical records & then used as cashless payment system. Check out Corbett report for more insight, keep an open mind.

Flossy Morris

29th July 2020 at 11:29 pm

ANOTHER post awaiting moderation?! Arrrrgghhh!

Flossy Morris

29th July 2020 at 11:14 pm

Thank you Vivian and Gareth.

Vivian, the plague doctor’s mask arrived last week. Thanks for the recommendation. Looking forward to my shopping trips. Hope the demo against the New State goes well, too.

Gareth, I’d love to be a playwright writing these kinds of absurdities but I think most western governments would do me out of a job, mate. What you’re describing of life in Madrid seems dire. Take it the civil rights organizations have not uttered so much as a whisper. I’m surprised, in a good way, at how much righteous anger you still have rather than total hopelessness.

Regarding the Spanish government not wanting tourists, I tried to make the point in a post (that got cancelled) that £12bn is spent annually by British tourists in Spain each year and that this year, had none of this chaos taken place, it probably would have been a lot more because the weather in England is so naff at the moment. It bewilders me how anyone could pass this money up without a damn good reason. I still don’t think this virus is a good enough reason. My opinion may change but right now I doubt that.

Good night and good luck

Vivian Darkbloom

29th July 2020 at 9:51 pm

Meeting and demo on Saturday August 1st in Hyde Park, London, 1PM. Organised by Stand Up X and others. The dissent is growing.

Gareth Edward KING

29th July 2020 at 9:48 pm

Hey Flossy! Very apt! You should’ve taken up being a playwright full-time! We’re actually working on community theatre here in Mierda-drid! Sorry! There is so much laughing or mocking to be done at the stupidities being committed in this city day in and day out! We’ll have the last laughs though! I’m sick of being told what to do! I’m big and wise enough (so says I) to work out which foot comes first!

Warren Alexander

29th July 2020 at 8:41 pm

A supine nation desperate to be told what to do by Nanny Doris.

Flossy Morris

29th July 2020 at 8:28 pm

An anology of the state of the nation played out between a crazy father and his teenage son
Son: Dad. What the hell have you done? Where are you?
Dad: Hello, son. I’m in the shelter.
Son: I’ve just got back from work at the store and they told me that was my last day. They told me YOU rang them and told them to sack me. What are you playing at?
Dad: It’s not safe out there, son. I did it for your own good. Just stay here in the house from now on, preferably in the shelter where it’s safe; it’s a jungle out there, you know.
Son: It’s no worse than the previous neighbourhood we lived in. It’s a lot better than the one grandad used to live in and he still worked. I can take care of myself. I need to get another bloody job now.
Dad: NO! Just do a few odd jobs around the house. Me and mum will take care of your allowance. We’ve got savings. It’ll be less than what you earned but you won’t have to commute.
Son: What, you’re just gonna piss all that hard-earned money down the drain to pay me to do the bloody garden? Anyway, my friends are at work and I want to see them.
Dad: Those awful people? They have questionable views. And you go out places after work with them. I’ve seen your text messages and the GPS tracker.
Son: You’ve been spying on me?! Checking my phone? You’ve no bloody right!
Dad: It’s for your own good, son. Another thing, I think your diet’s pretty bad. I want you to change your eating habits. Your little sister told me she thinks you shouldn’t drink alcohol or eat meat.
Son: That miserable little snitch. She should get a life of her own.
Dad: She’s a good member of this household.
Son: This house is falling to pieces. It needs serious work on it, which it might have got if you hadn’t spent all our money on this stupid shelter from a threat that doesn’t exist. Even great-granddad Bill didn’t have a shelter and he lived during the war.
Dad: Don’t mention that murderer’s name to me! He bombed Dresden.
Son: Of course he did! He was in the bloody RAF during World War Two! Can’t you put things into context?
Dad: Your mother’s from Dresden, you insensitive Englishman! Kneel before her picture in the living room and ask for forgiveness.
Son: You’re English, too, you berk!
Dad: I’ve apologized for it. You have dreadful opinions these days. I’m booking you on a psychological examination with Dr Neilson.
Son: Not Fergus Neilson! He diagnoses everything wrong. And he’s shagging mum behind your back.
Dad: I know, son, but his views are the same as mine and he votes for the right party, therefore he’s a good person.
Son: This place is insane. I’m leaving this lunatic asylum!
Dad: And go where? Everyone is as sensible as us. They all have shelters and have reduced contact with each other and don’t go out on the dangerous streets. You think our house is restrictive? You should see Pedro’s.
Son: I’m going to Sven’s. At least he hasn’t gone completely mental.
Dad: That family are outcasts and they’re not caring people at all. No sympathy or compassion. I hope they die.
Son: And what makes you so bloody virtuous? You get me sacked, you don’t stick up for your self-interests when it comes to mum who’s cheating on you, you let the house deteriorate and put up my rent to pay for your shelter and you want to force me to eat health food.
Dad: But I kneel in front of your mother and say I’m sorry for being English. That shows how good I am. You don’t need to do anything to be good. You just need pointless gestures, son. One day you’ll understand that. Hey! Where are you going? You can’t leave! Son, you are NOT going out dressed like THAT! You don’t even have a mask on!
Son: Oh, piss off!

Vivian Darkbloom

29th July 2020 at 9:45 pm

Superb parable, Flossy. For the literalists: Dad = the state. Son = the people.

Alan Vaughn

30th July 2020 at 12:41 pm

Love it Flossy. Just BEAUTIFUL! If only it could be published in every major newspaper and magazine on this Godforsaken planet, we just may have a small chance of waking a few million of the sleep-walking sheeple from their enforced stupor and finally get them to see the huge letters of the sign painted on the wall, right in front of them which has been there for at least the past six months: WAKE UP! YOU’RE BEING PLAYED.

Gareth Edward KING

29th July 2020 at 6:57 pm

I refuse to get worn down by this apparently hopeless situation. In Berlin, August 1st, there’s a demo, and I think there’s one in London the same day too. Both against this ‘hysteria’. At the former, the Galician Community Practitioner will be there: Natalia Priego Cancelo. Quite honestly, I’d prefer her to be here battling in Madrid. She’ll be back. Madrid’s dreadful at the moment: especially since yesterday’s over-the-top measures in Madrid: ‘Covid Card’, masks galore, bars and terraces closing at 0130! Tourists are now unwelcome: Fernando Simón-top epidemiological adviser to Sánchez’s Stalinist government-said as much yesterday that ‘tourists should stay away and then they don’t bring their viruses with them!’ Madrid was a city surrounded by Francoist rebels:1936-March 39; it would’ve been more human then! In the dole office today I had a security guard pull his trunchen out on me! For expressing an opinion! I got fed up trying to speak across a muzzle and tore it off! ‘Two metres distancing!’ Can you imagine being shouted at like that? At the door was a jack-ass South American with a plastic visor, muzzle and latex gloves on! How is that a way to treat people?

Philip St. John Lewis Davies

29th July 2020 at 6:30 pm

I have a suspicion that world leaders are anticipating rapid waves of ever-new and likely ever-more-contagious plagues out of the Far East. I suspect they are exaggerating the danger of the comparatively mild Covid 19 pandemic from China in order to cover what is a massive exercise in mobilising the populace to face what is probably going to be the permanent threat of serious infections emanating from Asia.

Furthermore, the increasingly rapid evolution of ever more numerous and ever more virulent diseases from China and it’s neighbourhood reminds me of the ‘carelessness’ (!?) of Chinese research/military laboratories, where exotic dangerous diseases are deliberately bred, often in contravention of international protocols or against the advice of the scientific community. Is weaponisation of such viruses being conducted? Are there threats of their ultimate use, in view of the new Cold War intensifying between the USA and it’s allies, and the People’s Republic of China? Is this rising international tension the hidden context that explains the apparent over-reaction to the now receding Covid crisis?

Are the authorities preparing for the unthinkable, while trying to avoid panic and anarchy? And – most troubling thought of all – has the bio-war already begun, without having been declared, or announced to the public? Biological warfare might seem to have considerable appeal to a ruthless opponent, since the invisibility of such attack would confer the ultimate possibility of ‘plausible deniability’ and therefore give scope for favourable propaganda whilst reducing an enemy. No doubt here in the West we are also breeding our own monstrous yet invisible killers.

Are we actually embarking on the Third World War? Otherwise we have to credit our leaders with a quite incredible degree of mental impairment in their conduct of the crisis. They may be bad, but I doubt if they are as bovinely stupid as they seem. So I suspect that, as ever, politicians have their own occult agenda, which they will never reveal to the populace – particularly if, as I begin to fear is the case now, the truth is too terrible to trust to the rest of us, because the inevitable eruption of panic and destruction would only accelerate the collapse of civilisation. A collapse which is already inevitable, but the wealthy elite needs to buy time for themselves, to – – – – isolate.

Doctors used to calm the dying with smooth words and placebos. I fear we are being similarly managed, en masse, prior to some unavoidable, looming hecatomb. The first we’d know of it would be people dropping down dead in the streets as a silent and invisible killer stalks the land. Too late to panic then. Easier for authority in hazmat suits to tidy-up. The Nightingale Hospitals are empty at present – vast morgues waiting to secretly process the bodies, under cover of treating them as patients.

I get these nightmares.

No smoke without fire.

ivy savage

29th July 2020 at 6:09 pm

It is like one of those cheap and cheerful comedy films from the fifties and sixties, the twist is this 21st century remake called “Carrie on Boris” is real. Boy is she having an effect on the traditional Tory policy of live and let live.

The socialist influence in No 10 is on show every day now. The new instruction going out is, don’t even think about living until we tell you what to do with your life.

Ellen Whitaker

29th July 2020 at 4:43 pm

I used to argue frequently in comments sections about the huge over-reaction to Covid-19, and the dire and potentially long-term negative consequences of that over-reaction. Today I feel completely worn down, shouted down by self-righteous lockdown fanatics. Irrationality is on the ascendent in western societies, and it will probably get worse before it gets better (if it ever gets better). It is to be hoped that, maybe 10 years after the pandemic ends, we can begin to access what happened. With luck, we will learn what not to do before the next one comes.

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