Unpublished: Excess Death rate dropped in 2020
Analysis shows 2020 rate was lower than previous 5 year average
This article was due to appear in the Sunday Independent on April 25 2021.
It was withdrawn prior to publication.
I have removed the statistics researcher’s real name and replaced it with ‘John Joseph’ as he has retired with a non-disclosure agreement in the interim.
An independent researcher has collated death figures that show Ireland had a lower excess death rate in 2020 than the previous five year average.
The research coincides with concerns raised by Mayo Coroner and solicitor Patrick O’Connor over the accuracy of daily death figures reported by NPHET.
Researcher John Joseph (name changed), an employee at a Dublin hospital, spent months examining death figures on RIP.ie, using an ‘automated repeatable sequencing system’ to capture date and place of death.
His figures present arguably the most accurate death rate data available one year on from the initial spike in deaths recorded in April 2020.
Joseph’s analysis found that no excess mortality occurred in 2020.
He used data on deaths from the CSO and the General Register Office (GRO) to calculate a five year average from 2014 to 2019 which he set against RIP.ie figures to calculate accuracy.
“While it can be seen that there are variations between the monthly and yearly data, the totals for the years 2014 to 2019 is 185,741 for RIP.ie and 185,500 for GRO/CSO, a difference of only 0.13%,” he said.
Joseph then compared that five year average to RIP.ie data from January to December 2020 and found the excess deaths to be 103 less than the five year average.
“The total deaths claimed by NPHET / data.gov.ie from March to December 2020 total up to 2,167, an alarming difference of 2,270 deaths,” he said.
Following publication of Coroner Patrick O’Connor’s statement that NPHET death figures ‘are inaccurate and do not have a scientific basis’ in this publication last Sunday, Newstalk reporter Paul O’Donoghue raised the Coroner’s concerns at Monday’s NPHET briefing.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said an assessment of excess deaths is required to gauge how Covid 19 has impacted society.
“We report in line with international guidance. Many other countries report differently. We have been entirely transparent and ultimately as we have said many times, it will be an assessment of excess deaths that will be the key determinant of how this disease has impacted on our population and given that we have just come through a very significant wave we need to wait for another number of months to fully assess the impact of Covid on our overall death rates,” Glynn said.
“Certainly there are a proportion of our deaths where people died with Covid as oppose to because of Covid, but I think in time we can look at all this but it’s not that we haven’t been transparent in our reporting processes since early on in the pandemic,” Glynn said.
Asked how the public will ever come to know the accurate figures of people that died solely ‘from Covid’ or ‘with Covid’ the Coroner Mr O’Connor offered this response (during an interview on April 2.)
“This may be the subject of analysis in time to come, however during the current battle with the Covid virus resources will not be applied to dealing with this important study.”
Asked if he believed the government response to Covid 19 is appropriate given the question mark hanging over reported death rates, Mr O’Connor pointed to an imbalance in the advice provided by NPHET to government.
“The Government can only make and take decisions based on the medical, scientific and economic information and advice that it gets from the experts in Public Health and Safety,” Mr O’Connor said.
In the absence of official CSO death figures for 2020, multiple researchers point to the relative accuracy of death rates reported to RIP.ie, which broadly fall in line with CSO figures once published. Since CSO death figures are not expected before 2023, RIP.ie figures are the most accurate numbers currently accessible to data analysts researching deaths.
Researcher Gerard McCarthy, an oceanographer based at Maynooth University, used figures that should fall broadly in line with John Joseph’s data during a segment broadcast on RTE’s Prime Time on Tuesday night, addressing the question of excess deaths, with the headline ‘3,200 excess deaths linked to Pandemic – new analysis.’
John Joseph refutes this headline claim, arguing that the presenter ‘claimed the data used was 97% accurate without presenting any numbers of deaths.’
“The only information provided by RTE to support their un-scientific claim of 3,200 excess deaths was the graph (shown on TV screen) which does not indicate the number of deaths estimated.”
“The unsubstantiated graph merely shows an estimated percentage increase in deaths compared to an un-named red dotted line at 0%. The graph does not state if the dotted red line represents the previous 5-year average which is required to calculate excess mortality or what exactly it represents.”
In addition, Mr Joseph found the presentation of the excess deaths from March 2020 to March 2021 to be ‘a false comparison.’
“The RTE graph does not cover a standard statistical year i.e., 1st Jan to 31st Dec and, even if it had any data to back it up, it would be skewed by including deaths from two flu seasons i.e., the deaths from the 2020 flu season which shifted from the normal January peak to April 2020, plus the deaths from the 2021 flu season which was mid January to mid Febuary,” he said.
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