Saturday, 29 January 2022

When all you have is a hammer....

Excitable conspiracy theorists are triumphantly distributing this "revelation" that only 6000 people in the UK have EVER died of Covid-19. What's particularly odd is that they simultaneously believe that there's been a massive cover-up by the Government and that they've uncovered the secret by simply asking the Government for the information. I'll happily take on all comers in the Ridiculing Government Incompetence Games, but come on, seriously. 

Because of course there is no cover-up or revelation here. The controversy is based on the obvious bollocks that "died of" and "died solely of" are the same thing, which they aren't remotely. The premise here is that having two things on a death certificate means that neither of those things is fatal. When of course their fatality is the reason they're on a death certificate.

The logic is puzzlingly unidirectional, too.

  • "This person has covid and condition X on their death certificate; therefore condition X killed them and covid didn't."
  • "This person has covid and condition X on their death certificate; therefore covid killed them and condition X didn't." 

These two arguments are logically identical, yet the conspiracy theorists are only making one of them and regard the other as crazy. 

Comorbidities are a thing. Two examples.

Firstly, diabetes is a comorbidity of covid. The conspiracy theorists claim that every diabetic person who died of covid in fact died of diabetes and merely happened to have completely non-fatal covid at the time. But diabetes doesn't kill you in weeks; it kills you in decades. When a forty-year-old with diabetes dies of covid, yes, it's technically true that they were going to die of diabetes "anyway" — in twenty-five to thirty-five years time. When some other disease accelerates that timeline to a month, the conventional way to describe the process is "killing".

Secondly, HIV. HIV screws up your immune system, causing you to eventually die of whatever ailment happens to come along. People with AIDS die of tuberculosis or cancer or meningitis or some other opportunistic infection. No-one has ever died of only HIV. By the exact same reasoning the conspiracy theorists are applying to the covid stats, the all-time worldwide fatality rate of HIV is zero.


Mark In Mayenne said...

Not contradicting your argument whatsoever, it seems to me that people are trying to establish the risk to healthy people with no comorbidites of dying from covid. It is to support or oppose the blanket roll-out of experimental vaccine to people who might be most unlikely to die if infected. When the two populations are identified and the risks to each known, one can come up with a useful program of prevention and treatment that is perhaps less dangerous than that being deployed today.

Anonymous said...

An interesting post, and an equally interesting comment.

The Pedant-General said...

So there's morons on both sides. Quite possibly true.

I think the difference is that the morons on the Govt/Fearmongering side are (or were) using "Died _with_ Covid therefore _of_ covid" to push a deeply deeply horrible restrction of really fundamental aspects of daily life. Like being able to sit next to your grandmother in her dying moments. And those same morons were then treating their own rules - and us - with contempt.

As regards the stats, I grabbed the ONS data weekly (because like you my job is also heavily data driven) and you could see the excess mortality to a horrific degree. Just _after_ the first lockdown hit. _HEAVILY_ concentrated in the over 80s.

As early as late April 2020, it was possible to see in the data that there was no excess mortaliy whatsoever in people under the age of 50-ish.

That's where the with not of becomes important. 20 year old gets smashed up on his motorbike, tests positive on (or probably some time after) arrival in hospital and, bosh!, he's part of the Covid stats.

It was always transparent nonsense and I would much rather we focussed on clobbering teh bastards in power than worrying about loons on the other end of the scale.