Raw data on COVID-19 cases and deaths are “quite misleading,” a renowned British medical expert said on Tuesday, adding that the UK’s high case numbers are caused by high levels of testing.
The UK is currently seeing a high number of confirmed CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases, which have been averaging more than 40,000 a day for over a week.
But Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said it is unfair to “bash the UK” over the case numbers and compare it with the rest of Europe when the UK has such high levels of testing.
The country’s high case rate is “very much related to the amount of testing,” including in schools, he told the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons.
“If you look across Western Europe, we have about 10 times more tests done each day than some other countries, this is per head of population,” said Pollard, who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
“We do have a lot of transmission at the moment, but it’s not right to say that those rates are really telling us something that we can compare internationally.”
“If you make the adjustment of cases in relation to the rates of testing, and look at test positivity, currently Germany has the highest test positivity rate in Europe,” he said. “So I think when we look at these data it’s really important not to bash the UK with a very high case rate, because actually it’s partly related to very high testing.”
Compared with case numbers, Pollard said it is more important to look at hospital admissions and deaths.
Even with deaths, Pollard said the raw data are “quite misleading,” because it is recorded as being within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test. When transmission is high, lots of people who test positive for COVID-19 will have actually died from other causes, he said.
According to Pollard, the UK’s high case number is partly caused by its “very effective” testing in schools.
“When you look in the community, for example, we see these very high rates of transmission, but in some parts of the country the vast majority of those come from very effective testing in schools, and so we’re picking up a lot of very mild infections,” he said.
Pollard said the high case numbers in some regions are only reflecting transmission amongst children, which is “much less importance than transmission to older adults,” as “children contribute a relatively small amount to adult transmission.”
He said hospital admissions now are “quite a different story from last year,” with the vast majority of people now going in having shorter hospital stays and much milder disease.
Many of these people also have underlying health conditions “which are destabilised by having a relatively mild COVID infection,” he said.
Physicians see this every winter with other viruses, Pollard said, adding that “people who are frail with various health conditions will be tipped over the edge as a result of those viral infections and COVID is doing that as well.”
PA contributed to this report.