Artillery Row

Is Lockdown costing more lives than Covid?

25% more people are dying because of lockdown than Covid

This article is in response to Hector Drummond’s article published in Artillery Row which can be found be clicking here.

Brief answer – yes: lockdown currently seems to be responsible for significantly more deaths than Covid itself.

I read Hector Drummond’s article on the Critic website a few days ago.  In that article HD assumed that deaths from Covid had been properly attributed and examined the effects of that assumption on the numbers of male and female excess deaths from non-Covid causes.  He concluded that there was evidence for an increase in the number of excess female deaths.

It occurred to me that, although HD’s arguments showed some anomalies in the excess deaths, there didn’t seem to be any particular reasons for thinking that Covid should have changed the ratio of male to female non-Covid deaths.  Also, many questions have been raised about the manner in which deaths are currently being attributed to Covid.  The default assumption should therefore be that the sex ratios of non-Covid deaths are unchanged and then to work out what this implies for the attribution of deaths to Covid and non-Covid causes.  

The steps in the argument are:

1:    In the absence of any compelling reason to think otherwise, assume people have died from non-Covid causes in the same sex ratios as they’ve previously done.

 2:    We know the sex ratios of people whose deaths have been attributed to Covid.

 3:    We also know the numbers of males and females who died from all causes in, say, week 16 of 2020.

 4:    The unknowns in the argument are the actual numbers of people who died of Covid and non-Covid causes.

 We have the data for Steps 1, 2 and 3 from ONS.  I used 2019 data on all deaths, all age groups and both sexes to get the sex ratios.  The unknowns can be found by solving 2 simultaneous equations with a little light algebra (which is left as an exercise for any readers so inclined). 

The results are in the Tables below  They show that the numbers non-Covid excess deaths (i.e. over and above the number of deaths normally expected in these weeks) in weeks 16 and 17 have been greater than those due to Covid itself. 

Week 16 Covid Non-Covid Excess Non-Covid
Current ONS attribution 8758 13593 3103
Unchanged M/F sex ratios 5252 17099 6609


Week 17 Covid Non-Covid Excess Non-Covid
Current ONS attribution 8237 13760 3302
Unchanged M/F sex ratios 5157 16840 6382


Unless Covid has somehow changed the sex ratio of deaths from all other causes it seems as though:

  •  Significantly fewer people are dying from Covid than are currently attributed to the disease (approx 40% fewer);
  • More people (approx 25% more) are dying because of the conditions of lockdown – non-Covid causes – rather than from Covid itself.

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