Dan Wootton and David Davis make incorrect claims about Covid-19 deaths

26 January 2022
What was claimed

While the media talks a lot of the 150,000 deaths, perhaps they should have been talking about the number of people who died 'of Covid' not 'with Covid'. That was just 17,371 up to the end of quarter three 2021

Our verdict

False. This is the number of people who died of Covid and had no pre-existing conditions in England and Wales.

“While the media talks a lot of the 150,000 deaths, perhaps they should have been talking about the number of people who died 'of Covid' not 'with Covid'. That was just 17,371 up to the end of quarter three 2021.”

A clip of Dan Wootton on GB News, which has been viewed more than 450,000 times altogether on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, falsely claimed that “just 17,371” people died of Covid-19 (rather than “with Covid-19”) up to the end of September 2021.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that use of this figure is “highly misleading”. The figure refers to the number of people who died of Covid-19 and had no pre-existing conditions listed on their death certificate in England and Wales by the end of September 2021, not the number of people who died “of Covid” in total.

We have known since the beginning of the pandemic that most people who die of Covid have other pre-existing health conditions and the ONS has been regularly publishing this data since early 2021. 

The fact these people had pre-existing health conditions does not erase the fact that they died “of Covid”.

The ONS says: “For those people dying from COVID-19, the most common pre-existing condition was diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition, that is serious and may make a person more vulnerable to other health problems, but this does not mean they were at risk of dying from it.”

By the end of September 2021, 131,762 deaths were registered in England and Wales with Covid-19 as the underlying cause. This is the number of people who died “of Covid”. 

Additionally, 16,701 people died with Covid listed on their death certificate, but not as the underlying cause of death, over that time period.  

On 24 January David Davis MP also described the data incorrectly on Twitter. 

Mr Davis claimed: “This FOI request would indicate that only 17,371 of those deaths occurred in people with no other underlying causes”.

The phrase “underlying cause” has a specific definition being “the disease or injury that initiated the train of events directly leading to death.”

A pre-existing condition which may have contributed to a person sadly dying of Covid-19 is not an “underlying cause” of death.

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted GB News and David Davis to request corrections regarding the claims they each made.

GB News did not respond.

David Davis did not correct his claim on Twitter.

We also submitted a complaint about GB News to Ofcom. After assessing this Ofcom did not pursue an investigation and has not provided details of how this decision was reached.

It’s not good enough.

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This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because 17,431 is the number of people who died of Covid-19 and had no pre-existing conditions listed on their death certificate, not the number of people who died “of Covid” in total.

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