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An exercise in understanding the Coronavirus Death Figures Part III

The great thing about this coronavirus from a data analysis business intelligence point of view is the cornicopia of data to play around with.

When it comes to the Covid 19 datasets I am really spoilt for choice, but I have gone with the Office of National Statistics dataset, because I want to compare the current years mortality rates against previous years.

I visited the Office of National Statistic website and downloaded their England and Wales Death figures from 2010 to 2020.

I wanted to know whether there was a significant increase in deaths week on week from previous years compared to 2020.

Office of Nation Statistics Total Number of Deaths for all Ages 2010 - 2020

So the notificable thing about this chart is the sharp increase in the number of deaths, starting in week 13, unlucky for some!, where the ONS recorded a total of 11,141 deaths.  This date and figure is significant, because this is when the UK went into Covid 19 Lockdown, on Monday the 23rd March 2020, and life as we knew it in the UK has changed forever.

The death figures continue to climb in the following weeks:

Week No  
Week Commencing  
No Deaths
 13 23/03/20 11,141
 14 30/03/20 16,387
 15 06/04/20 18,116
 16 13/04/20 22,357
 17 20/04/20 21,997
 18 27/04/20 17,953

Apart from the spike in week 20, w/c/ 11/05/2020, with a figure of 14,573, w.r.t. the Number of deaths has been declining ever since, and have not been significantly higher when compared to previous years no. of death figures.

Now here's an interesting observation, from week 25, w/c 15/06/2020, the no. of deaths in 2020, was less than the previous 3/4 years, but the government deemed it necessary to make mask wearing mandatory on public transport on this day.

By the time the government made it mandatory to mask wearing in shops, on the 24th July 2020, week 30, w/c 20/07/2020 the No. deaths was 8,891, which was the 2nd lowest recorded number of deaths in the last 4 years!

Now for those who read my previous blog, this is not the end of the story for me, because I also want to look at the number of deaths due to respiratory, because according to the media, Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a virus that attacks the respiratory system.

Now without giving too much away, what would you expect the chart show for the year 2020?

If you follow the media logic, there should be an significant increase in deaths where the underlying cause was respiratory disease, which has the classification  (ICD-10 J00-J99), not only at the beginning of the year, when nobody was aware that there was a virus attacking the respiratory system, but more importantly, I am expecting the no deaths due to respiratory to follow the trend of the chart above.

That's to say the no. of deaths to increase from Week 13 and peak at week 16, w/c 3/04/2020, before tailing off.

Well lets see what the data shows.........

Office of National Statistics Total Deaths where underlying cause was respiratory disease

Well, well, well!!!!!

That was a little bit disappointing, as this data did not reveal what I was expecting, not only is there no peak, but the no. of deaths is lower than previous years, as you go through the year the no deaths due to respiratory is the lowest over the last 10 years, from week 21 the 18th May 2020.

Granted at this point the No. of deaths attributed to Covid-19 has got a separate classification, but here's the rub.

In the ONS dataset it has the following caveat:

Note: Deaths could possibly be counted in both causes presented. If a death had an underlying respiratory cause and a mention of COVID-19 then it would appear in both counts.

My question to you is, if a person can only die once how can it be counted as 2 deaths?

Surely you record the primary cause of death, as the actual cause of death?

Is it just me that thinks there is a world of difference between dying of Covid-19 and dying of a respiratory disease, but being found positive for Covid-19, or am I just splitting hairs?

What are your thoughts on this?

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