Thurrock Council slam “inaccurate reporting” over death rates in borough

A LOOK at excess death rates has created a false impression that Thurrock has seen an extremely high number of excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that excess deaths in Thurrock peaked in the week ending 17 April with 286% more deaths than usual. However those figures include the 39 men and women who were tragically discovered in Eastern Avenue, Grays last October. Their deaths were not formally registered until 11 April 2020, following the proceedings of an inquest by HM Senior Coroner.

The bodies were discovered in the lorry in the early hours of 23 October 2019

A Daily Mail report has used the ONS figures to incorrectly claim that Thurrock had one of the largest death rate peaks in Europe. The statistics used in the ONS study, and quoted by the Daily Mail, are based on the date that deaths are registered in the UK. Usually death registration happens close to the time of death however in more complicated circumstances deaths can be registered much later.

Although those deaths are just as tragic as the deaths of any other individual, when they are set aside from other deaths within the period in question, the figure for excess deaths in Thurrock represents a 170% increase on the average for that week – nowhere close to the highest in Europe. Across the entire time of the pandemic the number of positive tests in Thurrock has been amongst the lowest compared to similar authorities.

Cllr Allen Mayes, Cabinet Member for Health, said: “This highlights the issue of trying to use one week’s data to tell a story about a pandemic which has been affecting the world for more than four months now.

“When comparing local authority areas it is important to consider the total number of excess deaths during the epidemic, and not simply compare the figures of one week, as different areas have experienced different shaped epidemic curves.

“Thurrock’s communities have done an excellent job of following guidance and socially distancing. I would urge everyone to ignore these unhelpful and inaccurate news reports and continue to follow government advice and guidance.”

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