Less than 15 percent of the patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 since the beginning of September have died of the disease.
That number is half the death toll in the first wave of the spring pandemic.
Individual numbers suggest that the death rate of those in need of intensive care has declined even further – from 39.3 percent by August 31 to 11.6 percent since then.
The dramatic falls were revealed in an analysis by the Health Service Journal yesterday. Doctors say there are several factors behind the improvement.
Less than 15 percent of the patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 since the beginning of September have died of the disease. A clinical worker attends to a patient in the intensive care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge in May
More extensive testing means that most people will be diagnosed and start treatment sooner.
Treatments have improved as fewer patients have been ventilated and more are given the effective CPAP oxygen pressure masks to keep their airways open. There are also effective life saving drugs such as dexamethasone.
Another critical factor could be that “many of the most at risk in the first wave succumbed to the virus,” the report said. In the meantime, vulnerable and elderly patients are better shielded.
Mohammed Munavvar, advisory chest doctor and President of the British Thoracic Society, said: “I think the difference between spring and now is that we are better informed and better prepared.”
Dr. Alison Pittard, dean of the department of intensive care medicine, said the reduced death rates in intensive care units may be “skewed” as nearly half of those admitted since September 1 are still there.
Individual numbers suggest that the death rate of those in need of intensive care has fallen even further – from 39.3 percent by August 31 to 11.6 percent since then. An NHS Nightingale hospital is located in the ExCel center in London
The Health Service Journal also revealed that a key measure of cancer diagnosis effectiveness has been reversed in dozen of areas. Since 2014, the NHS has started reducing the percentage of cancers that first appeared in A&E.
Six years ago the number was over 20 percent, but by 2019 it had dropped to 18.8 percent, suggesting that general practitioners were better able to see which patients needed to be referred.
This year, however, the percentage of A&E diagnoses has increased in some areas – to an even higher level than in 2014. Warwickshire, West Birmingham, Blackburn and Oldham saw an increase of between 2.4 and 4 percentage points compared to 2014.
In North East Lincolnshire, the percentage of cancers diagnosed at A&E increased from 15.9 percent in 2014 to 21.3 percent.
Elsewhere, a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization found that one in 2,000 under 70-year-olds who contract Covid is killed by it.
The estimate, calculated by Dr. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University in the US, would make Covid half as dangerous as the flu, which kills about 0.1 percent of those infected.
Most scientists assume that Covid kills between 0.5 and 1 percent of patients.
But the true number has never been definitively established.
Dr. Ioannidis got his number by summarizing the results of 61 seroprevalence studies based on antibody tests to identify those who have contracted the virus in the past.
He calculated an infection death rate of 0.27 percent across all age groups and locations – although this would be far lower in many areas.
And removing those over 70 from the numbers, which drop to 0.05 percent, he said. Around 38 million people worldwide have now tested positive for Covid. Dr. Ioannidis estimates the real number is closer to half a billion, with the majority never realizing that they are sick.
More extensive testing means that most people will be diagnosed and start treatment sooner. Treatments have improved as fewer patients have been ventilated and more are given the effective CPAP oxygen pressure masks to keep their airways open. Workers at a Liverpool hospital are pictured above while clapping for carers in April
But his estimate was criticized last night by other scientists who said he misused numbers from their studies.
Dr. Ioannidis, a consistent critic of the ban policy, called for restrictions to be lifted and the vulnerable to be protected.
He wrote, “Most sites are likely to have an infectious mortality rate of less than 0.20 percent. With appropriate, precise, non-pharmacological measures that selectively seek to protect vulnerable populations and high-risk environments, the infectious mortality rate can be reduced even further. “
His contribution complements the call for much more targeted restraints that allow most people to return to normal while the vulnerable are shielded.
Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz from the University of Wollongong, Australia, whose own work was conducted by Dr. Ioannidi was cited, however, saying the study was flawed. He said the death toll was “simply a consequence of the poor quality of the review itself and had very little to do with when the estimates were made”.
“Interestingly enough, Ioannidis quotes our study but gets the numbers wrong,” he said.