Coronavirus: Death rate of critical COVID patients has almost 'halved' compared to start of pandemic

·2-min read

The number of people getting seriously ill with coronavirus who go on to die has fallen compared to the start of the pandemic, according to new research.

It is thought the drop in mortality could be down to clinicians having a better understanding of the virus and more effective treatments.

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Figures released today show that deaths related to coronavirus are up 53% week-on-week. The latest data is from the week ending 16 October.

The numbers show that 670 people died that week with COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate, compared to 438 the week before.

More than 61,000 deaths with the virus mentioned have been recorded in the UK since the pandemic started.

The new study from the University of Exeter found that death rates were highest for those in intensive care and high dependency wards in late March.

Back then, of those requiring treatment in intensive care - like Boris Johnson - 41% passed away.

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By June that number had almost halved to 21%.

For the slightly less severe high dependency units, 26% of patients in March died, and by the summer the figure was sitting at 7%.

Dr John Dennis, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "Importantly, we controlled for factors including age, sex, ethnicity and other health conditions such as diabetes.

"This suggests the improvement in death rates in more recent months is not simply due to younger, or previously healthier, people being admitted to critical care.

"A number of factors are likely to be at play here, including improved understanding of how to manage COVID-19 amongst doctors, and the introduction of effective treatments."

The data used was from adults admitted to critical care, and the team looked at the proportion of people with the coronavirus who died within 30 days of admission.

The study was done in conjunction with the University of Warwick, and with help from The Alan Turing Institute.

Dr Bilal Mateen, of the University of Warwick, said: "The reduction in the number of people dying from COVID-19 in hospitals is clearly a step in the right direction, but it's important that we do not become complacent as a result.

"It's possible that the higher death rates at the peak of the pandemic are in part because hospitals were so overcrowded at that point.

"Even at the lowest point, nearly a quarter of admissions to intensive care were still dying - that's a huge number of people, and we have to do all we can to control the spread of the virus and keep hospital admissions as low as possible."

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