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Evidence Synthesis: What is a “Covid death”

The WHO has decided to make Covid-19 a compulsorily registerable disease and has issued guidelines for attributing cause of death to the disease.

“…A COVID-19 death is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible disease in a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be associated with the COVID disease (e.g. trauma).”

These guidelines include, in addition to confirmed cases of the disease, probable or suspected cases (without confirmation by laboratory test).

The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) indicates that the monitoring of deaths should be done according to the WHO definition.

Even these guidelines are followed in different and sometimes contradictory ways. Some are more inclusive and others less, even within the same country and varying over time.

For example, several countries, such as England, classify a death as ‘Covid’ when it occurs within 28 days of a confirmed positive test.

“The UK government and the devolved administrations have agreed to publish the number of deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive Covid result, confirmed daily by the laboratory.” – GOV.UK- UK press release (12 August 2020)

However, in England (London) deaths without a positive test are classified as “Covid deaths”.

Deaths announced in London hospitals from 20 to 26 April 2021.

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