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New ‘more accurate’ figures give higher total for COVID-19 deaths

Nicola Sturgeon - Image credit: PA

New ‘more accurate’ figures give higher total for COVID-19 deaths

A new way of recording coronavirus deaths in Scotland shows the number to be higher than in previous figures.

At her lunchtime briefing, the First Minister said there have now been 4,565 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Scotland, an increase of 336 since Tuesday, and 70 new deaths, taking the total number of deaths by Wednesday 8 April to 366.

However, from now on, in addition to the daily confirmed deaths from coronavirus, weekly statistics will be published by National Records of Scotland that count not only confirmed deaths but also other deaths where COVID-19 is a suspected cause or thought to have been a contributing factor.

The first set of statistics, published today, show that by Sunday 7 April there were 354 deaths in Scotland where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Of these, 282 were in the week from 30 March to 5 April, 62 from 23 to 29 March and 10 from 16 to 22 March, with 16 March the first date that coronavirus was linked to a death.

The figure of 354 deaths is significantly higher than the 220 total confirmed deaths announced on Sunday.

Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that the number recorded under this system was larger but added that it is “unfortunately almost certainly more accurate”.

“I am aware that this all sounds more complex today than usual, but hopefully it will become clearer as the additional reporting system becomes more familiar and I want to stress that it is all in the interests of providing information that is as full and comprehensive as possible,” the First Minister added.

The National Records of Scotland figures also have information about deaths by age, sex and health board, which will help wth the allocation of resources.

But concerns have been raised that coronavirus does not fully account for the difference in deaths compared with previous years.

The total number of deaths registered in Scotland from 30 March to 5 April was 1,741, while the average number of deaths registered in the same week over the last five years was 1,098, a difference of 643, with coronavirus only thought to account for 282 of those and some others possibly due to delays in recording of deaths from previous weeks.

The Scottish Government is looking into the reasons for the increase, but there has been speculation that some people with other health problems may not be seeking medical help, either due to fears about coronavirus or health service capacity.

Sturgeon said they do not have enough evidence to say just now that people are dying for those reasons but the Scottish Government is putting out a public message for people to seek medical help as normal because it is a “concern” that people might be less likely to contact the NHS if they feel ill.

She said: “We don’t want people to not come forward if they are worried about their health.

“Whatever the worry is, whether it’s coronavirus related or for some other reason, the health service is still there. Other illnesses haven’t gone away because of coronavirus.”

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