Medical staff transport a patient from the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne during the pandemic. ( AFP / WILLIAM WEST)

Social media posts share false claim about Covid deaths in Australia

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Multiple social media posts shared in February 2022 claim the Australian government has only recorded 83 deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. The country has endured nearly two years of some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions in the world. But the posts are false; Australia has recorded 2,556 Covid deaths as of February 23, 2022.

The claim was shared in this Twitter post on February 16, 2022.

The caption reads: "Your government destroyed your life, savings, business, family and freedom for 83 deaths from covid over the last 2 years.... hate to say many of us told you so."

The tweet includes a screenshot that appears to have been captured from a television broadcast.

The text reads: "COVID FACTS, NOT FEAR. LET'S HAVE SOME PERSPECTIVE. ACTUAL NUMBER KILLED ONLY BY COVID: 83".

Screenshot of the false post. Taken February 21, 2022.

The screengrab was taken from a February 15, 2022 episode of Paul Murray Live on Sky News Australia.

Audio from the programme can be heard here at the 57-minute 23-second mark, when he discussed an Australian Bureau of Statistics data update on Covid-19 deaths published on February 15, 2022.

Other instances of the image were shared on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

But the posts misrepresented Covid deaths in Australia.

Calculating virus deaths

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2,556 people in Australia have died from Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the same time period, an additional 83 people who were recorded to have died from other causes were Covid positive at the time of their death, the ABS said.

In response to a query on Twitter about Covid deaths, a spokesperson for the bureau tweeted on February 18, 2022: "The 2,639 deaths represent all people who had COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate.

"Of these, 2,556 people died directly due to the virus (second dot point) and 83 people died of another cause, but had tested positive to Covid-19".

Professor Nancy Baxter, clinical epidemiologist and head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, also said the claim circulating in the social media posts was a "complete misinterpretation" of the ABS report.

"Indeed the 83 people that were commented about by Paul Murray were those who 'died with' and not from Covid. So the folks who just happened to have Covid at the time they died, but Covid did not contribute to their deaths," she said.

Alexandra Martiniuk, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Sydney, also told AFP that it was "not accurate to say that there were 83 deaths exclusively from Covid-19 in Australia".

"ABS data shows that 2,556 deaths were due directly to Covid-19, and an additional 83 people died of another cause (eg cancer, chronic heart disease) but were also Covid-19 positive when they died," she said.

"The 2,556 deaths were due directly to Covid-19. For the additional 83 people who died, the causes of their deaths were other diseases (like cancer), but they were Covid-19 positive when they died."

COVID-19